There is something about water that always draws my attention. Perhaps it is because it can change so quickly. It can be calm, and reflective. It can ripple and pucker. Sometimes it will rush and splash, crash, and tumble. Or it can gush forward in a torrent with enough strength to tear down buildings and destroy anything in its path.
A couple of weeks ago I was on vacation and happened to take the picture above while sitting underneath a pier. I had never seen the ocean from that angle before and as I focused on the waves I was reminded of Charles H. Spurgeon’s quote, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.”
While that quote is true and helpful to a struggling soul, it also speaks of pain. Tremendous pain.
Can you imagine being caught in a wave and getting slammed up against a rock? There is a reason the pier has signs to keep 150 feet away while swimming. To be caught in a wave and thrown against a rock is anything but painless.
In fact, I experienced this one summer when my family was on vacation in the Smoky Mountains. We had decided to go tubing down a river when the waters were rough. Perhaps my weight was poorly distributed, or my tube had a knack for finding the worst currents, but I fell off that tube into coursing water repeatedly throughout our journey. Everyone else in my family was fine, seeming to chart a course that was safe, but me, the collegiate swimmer, was fighting a battle against the water.
At one coursing section, that became a small waterfall, I decided to follow my sister and do exactly what she did. To this day, I still don’t know what happened that caused me to flip. I did exactly as she did, and rather than plop gently in the water, I did a sort of half cartwheel and landed with my shins smashed against a rock and a wave of water hitting me square in the face that knocked me over and under the surface. I remember the shock of pain that coursed through my legs. I knew I was going to have bruises, and I did carry those black and blue legs for weeks. At that moment, I scrambled to stand and grasp my tube, water coursing all over me. We carried on, but the pain still radiated through my body. An hour later my hands were still trembling and the following day caused me to walk with a careful slowness. I still flinch thinking about the way my full weight crashed into that rock and the force of it reverberated through my shins.
So there I was, sitting under the pier and watching the waves smash into rock. I knew from experience how painful it was … so why would Spurgeon say he was thankful for the wave?
Have you ever walked through a difficult circumstance in life? Have you ever been through a trial that is so consuming that even though everyone else around you seems to be navigating life so easily, you are left reeling and shaking as waves of pain, grief, hurt, or struggle crash over you?
Have you walked in darkness?
If you have ever walked through a valley of grief, the valley of death, then you understand what I am talking about. You understand the hurt in that valley, but also the comfort when Christ walks with you.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4
I have written on Psalm 23 before and how the valley of death is a significant place of cleansing throughout the Old Testament, but it also rests between the city of Jerusalem and the Garden of Gethsemane. If you track Christ’s movements, He is often found to be walking through the valley of death as he goes from city to the garden and back again. Significant? I think so, and here’s why.
In the last year and a half, I have walked closely with one who has been in the deepest of valleys, and to see him still declare Christ and His glory has encouraged my own faith. I have witnessed Christ walking along with him in grief. I have seen the Lord move and work in this valley like never before. Witnessing this testimony has shown me that Christ truly is the Lily of the Valley (Song of Solomon 2:1). He is the beauty in the valley, the light when all else has gone dark.
Through walking closely with one in grief, a saying has come between us. It’s a phrase we use to describe the surrender we must have in the valley, even when it hurts. “Just Be.” We say that to one another as an acknowledgment of the Lord’s faithfulness and that He will see us through the pain—it’s a recognition to let go.
So, what does any of this have to do with waves and water? What does it have to do with my poor shins getting smashed against a rock in the Smoky Mountains?
Surprisingly, quite a lot, and it all comes back to that quote from Spurgeon, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.”
You see, in the valley there is pain, but there is also beauty. There is hurt, but there is Christ walking along beside us, holding us, sheltering us from the worst of it. There is the Lily of the Valley helping to be the beauty in the hurt, a Savior lending us His glorious strength so our lives are a living testament to the work of His hands.
That’s why we can kiss the waves.
When we are caught in the tumult of struggle, of pain, of being smashed by our circumstances, we have to remember that life is throwing us against the Rock of Ages. We can cling to the Rock and He will uphold us—and in the valley He will walk with us.
His Word tells us He is with us in the trial and the struggle, and one day, yes, one day, we will see that He set us in safety and was with us all along.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord. – Psalm 27:5-6
Through pain and suffering comes a living testimony that glorifies the Lord.
See, I forgot to tell you one part of my story. When my shins smashed against that rock and that wave hit me and knocked me over, I cast a desperate cry of help to the Lord. Panic set in and I feared drowning. As I arose from the water, shaking, my prayer turned to gratefulness. I sucked in deep breaths and praised Him. Like Psalm 31, I could praise the Lord for I was safe even when I felt attacked.
Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city. – Psalm 31:21
So, my friend, this is your reminder to surrender when you feel like a city under attack. It is your reminder to surrender and let go—to just be.
Just be in the valley where there is pain.
Just be in the valley where there is beauty
Just be in the valley where you can hear the Lord clearer.
Just be in the valley where you can see the glory of the Lord at hand.
Just be in the valley where there is still reason to praise the Lord.
Just be … claim it as a mantra for the soul. For in the places where you have to just be, the Lord is there, the solid Rock of Ages and His glory is magnified all the more as He holds you firm against the waves. Just be, and watch as He crafts a story that becomes a living testimony to His power, His grace, and His goodness.
The Lord is faithful, and I promise that one day you will be able to sing praises to our glorious Savior, no matter the pain. His Word declares He is with us, and when we choose to surrender and “just be,” He is right there with us—the beauty in the valley, the firm foundation upon which we stand.
So … just be … and praise Him all along the way.
You have turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever. – Psalm 30:11-12