For years shipbuilders have followed a mathematical formula concerning waves to assist them in the construction of new ocean-going vessels. This formula assumes that all waves are of a uniform nature, following a predictable pattern. Despite this practice, though, sailors for many years have related stories about rouge, “killer” waves of enormous size that appear from nowhere and are capable of sending ships to a watery grave. These stories were previously dismissed as being just the fabrications of those desperate to camouflage some gross incompetence that had resulted in a tragic accident. Such alleged incompetence, in fact, used to be cited as the cause of all mysterious shipwrecks that occur every year. But then, a a little over a decade ago, the unthinkable happened: An offshore oil rig registered a rogue wave that rose well over 100 feet tall. Naval science was shocked. Perhaps those sailors had been telling the truth after all.
Studies conducted since that time have concluded that these rogue, “killer” waves are actually somewhat common in certain areas of the world’s oceans. And, they just happen to form in those areas in which the majority of ships have sunk under mysterious circumstances. What causes the formation of these rogue, “killer” waves? It seems that there is some truth to the old wave formula. Waves do follow a predictable pattern, but they are not uniform in their nature. Sometimes a wave will fail to crest as it should and will actually sink, creating a deeper “trench” in the ocean’s surface and transferring its kinetic energy to the next wave that is about to crest. The result is a wave that crests well above the previously expected norm, a wave that is now essentially two waves in one.
Imagine, then, being a sailor in the control room, several stories above the deck of your ship when, suddenly, a wave higher than you slams into your vessel, breaks out all the windows, and floods out all of the decks of your ship simultaneously. How could you possibly prepare for that type of phenomenon? Remember: All ships are still built in accordance to a formula that states that waves just do not crest that high. Thus, they are not equipped to deal with such rogue waves. As it now stands, you either hope for the best as you traverse those trouble laden spots of the “seven seas” or plot a longer course that is comparatively free of such waves. The dilemma for the merchant marines is obvious. Do you risk loosing your crew and cargo or do you compromise your delivery time? Regardless of your decision, there is a chance that you will loose revenue.
Often we are confronted with such waves spiritually. We have a mindset that states that all of the problems that we will face will be predictable and uniform in their nature. Thus, we think that it is possible for us to protect ourselves from the waves on life’s sea by structuring our lives in a specific manner. Yet, there are occasions when we look out on the horizon and are horrified when we see a wave that is taller than our vessel. Over “ten stories” of grief, anxiety, or pain comes crashing down on top of us, breaking us apart and flooding our souls. We can not anticipate these waves. We know not when they will form or from whence they will come. But, fortunately, we are not as vulnerable as the physical vessel that navigates the world’s oceans. In fact, the brother of our Lord tells us how to survive the rogue, “killer” waves of life. Note his words:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8 NASB)
Basically, we persevere through faith. We are capable of seeing the positive impact that such waves can have upon our life. Rather than being confined to a rigid mindset allowing only for a formula that has been proven untrue, our trials actually broaden our scope. Thus, we rebuild ourselves following the confrontation with the “killer” wave so that a wave of that particular type and magnitude can not threaten us again. More importantly, we loose that naive notion that there cannot be an even bigger, deadlier wave out there that we have yet to see. Ultimately, we understand that it is the “killer” waves that prod us on towards maturity. And, in the meantime, we remain in constant contact with the One drawing up the plans for our future “upgrades” so that He will “guide our pilgrim bark aright”.
A lack of faith, though, produces the opposite effect. One remains confined by a rigid mindset with its narrow expectations, and fails to benefit from his or her confrontation with the “killer” wave. Specifically, he or she murmurs, “This should not be happening to me”, and allows his or her vessel to sink into the “depths of despair”. At this critical point, he or she either sinks to the bottom never to rise again or becomes tempted, once salvaged by caring sailors, to spend the rest of his or her life in a dry-dock away from the ocean. The great Architect immediately offers His blueprints with its corrections, reminding the broken vessel before Him that he or she was made to sail life’s sea. But, the discouraged mariner is reluctant to do so. And, if his or her vessel does set sail once more, it is usually without the consideration of the existence of an even deadlier wave. Instead, he or she continues sulking over the previous wreck. Therefore, when the next rogue waves become manifest, he or she is tossed around, subject to the will of those waves. Full of doubt, such a one becomes an unstable ship. And since he or she does not accept those improvements offered by God, he or she cannot expect Him to assist them any further.
Let us praise God for our salvation and look for those “upgrades” He offers through His Word. Let us make modifications when necessary and continue asking for more. If we will do so, then we will reach our harbor safely.