Troubles can be overwhelming, like the thrashing waves of the sea.
“Yeah, my life is what I’m fighting for
Can’t part the sea, can’t reach the shore…
God, keep my head above water
Don’t let me drown…I can’t breathe…”
– Avril Lavigne
Have you ever been broken?
We know what it feels like.
Brokenness isn’t just feeling low or even on your knees, weeping before God. Those are better described as a humbling of the spirit, a deep conviction, or even heart-felt grief.
Until you’ve actually experienced brokenness yourself, you can’t really understand the difference. Yet, those of you who have truly been broken know exactly what I’m talking about.
When you lose everything, see all you’ve built destroyed. When you feel betrayed by those closest to you, abandoned by all, lost in the world without hope, wondering if even God Himself has turned His back on you…that is when you know true brokenness. An inability to go on, a weakness that pervades your bones and converts your muscles into a quivering mess. A mind that can’t find the light no matter what direction you look. That is brokenness.
It feels just like drowning.
In 2018, Avril Lavigne released the hit song Head Above Water. One listen and you know she’s been broken too. In fact, she says in interviews that the song was written while suffering from Lyme Disease in a moment when she thought she was dying.
She had been bedridden for several years, unable to overcome an illness that doctors couldn’t seem to diagnose. Her friends all turned their backs, believing she was just depressed. One fateful day, as her mother sat by her in bed, holding her, Avril suddenly couldn’t catch her breath anymore. She felt like she was drowning.
Mentally, she thought she was dying and resignedly gave herself over to it.
Then, in the middle of the crisis, she says the music and words to Head Above Water suddenly came to her like a spiritual experience, somehow inspired from outside herself.
It was her cry to God to save her from the oceans.
Many times, the Bible compares turmoil and trouble to the oceans. It says the world is like “the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves.” The attacks and problems of this world can feel very much like relentless, overwhelming waves, threatening to take us under at any moment.
As Avril sings, “can’t part the seas, can’t reach the shore,” she feels the desperation, understanding she’s not only lost, but helpless. Alone, surrounded by nothing but endless, pounding waves, there is nowhere else to reach but up. So, she calls to God.
What makes floating alone in the ocean so desperate is the complete sense of helplessness. There’s no firm ground beneath your feet, so you’re billowed and rolled against your will. Pushed and pulled where you don’t want to go, and as your strength wanes, you realize with futility how soon you may plunge under for the last time. Never to breathe again.
Just a single touch, the slightest sensation of toes scraping sand would be enough to reignite hope of salvation. The endless vision of eternal waves flooding the horizon with nothing beyond, instead, destroy it.
So, that is what we long for, that is exactly what those who are broken by the world truly need: Land.
The sight of land, the feel of it beneath our feet. Without it, we perish. It is the only thing that can help.
God has promised us a future without turmoil, a place without trouble. That place is His Kingdom. It is a place for the future, but that place can also be here for you now. This is what He intends for Land (the shore) to symbolize for us.
Just as the oceans represent trouble and turmoil, a place we cannot inhabit, Land is God’s intentional symbol for His Kingdom, a place of safety. Land is made up of many rocks and grains of sand, all of which represent Words that God has spoken.
I have a strange story to share.
Far too recently for my comfort, I found myself in a very dark place emotionally. I was experiencing severe stress and abandonment from all those close to me due to events outside of my control. As the days ticked by, things only got worse and worse.
I was descending into the depths. I’d lost all sense of purpose and hope.
Before I knew it, I was in my truck driving through state after state with no destination in mind. Searching for some kind of healing words from someone, but none were to be had.
The vague sense that I should go to a specific museum in Kentucky kept voicing itself in the back of my mind, but that was all I had. I resisted the thought, doubted it, but finally succumbed and decided to go. I was literally mumbling to myself “how stupid this was” as I crossed the parking lot.
Then, as I traversed the exhibits, a curious thing happened. I came to a room that had a robot version of Noah who would speak and answer visitors when they clicked different questions on a tablet screen. I guess someone must have already pressed one of the questions, because the exact moment I walked in, that animatronic Noah turned toward me, looked me right in the eyes, and declared, “His timing is always perfect, and God always keeps His promises.”
The words punched straight through to my heart and hit me with a force that only those who have heard God’s voice can understand. In an instant, I felt transformed by hope, lifted up from despair. I felt the sheer power of those words and knew that God had just spoken to me as clear as day. Sure, the phrases had been pre-programmed for a robot to utter, but God knew that and He timed every second of my day so that I would arrive in the perfect moment to hear them at the perfect time. And He also infused the words with His power.
For the first time in months, I felt some sand beneath my feet…and the peace that sensation brought to me was overwhelming.
I didn’t really understand what He fully meant, but by simply saying “His timing is always perfect,” I at least understood there was a plan of some kind. Which was enough. And His power ensured His words took root in my heart powerfully.
It may seem weird to you to think God might speak to someone in such a way, but the longer you walk with God, the more you learn that you can’t put Him in a box. He speaks in a lot of crazy ways. The trick is knowing how to discern His voice from others.
For all of you reading this who have felt like you’re drowning, who are buffeted by the storm and rolled by waves of divorce, bankruptcy, grief, or failure, what you need most is to feel some land beneath your feet.
You need to hear words of truth to settle your spirit. Peace and hope can be just a moment away. One sentence may be all it takes.
Human wisdom, no matter how wise, won’t do it. It has to be infused with His power to work.
As Avril Lavigne says, the song Head Above Water had a healing power for her she had been unable to find elsewhere, and she felt its inspiration come to her from God. This is the same transformative power I encountered in Kentucky.
God speaks to us sometimes in prayer, most often through the Bible. He also speaks to us through other people, especially believers.
But how will you know if it’s Him speaking to you?
First, it will almost always (but not always) be a gentle voice, or even a whisper. Therefore, you have to be listening closely. Second, what He says will never conflict with the Bible, for that is already well beyond confirmed as His Word. Third, it will almost certainly be a thought outside of your own thoughts, a new understanding that challenges what you currently think or believe.
If you’re in the middle of the crashing waves right now, the easiest, quickest way to salvation is to seek God on your knees and then open a Bible and begin reading. Ask for counsel from others on where to start if you don’t have an idea. Ask questions when you don’t understand something you’ve read.
I promise, in a short time, you will experience the power beginning to work. You will soon feel the land beneath your feet and every step will lift your further out of the waves.
 Isaiah 5:30, Isaiah 17:12, Isaiah 57:20, Jeremiah 51:42, Ezekiel 26:3, Zechariah 10:11, Revelation 21:1
 Psalm 65:7