Text: Isaiah 23:1-18, Isaiah 24:1-23, Romans 1:18-23, Philippians 2:5-11
On a sunny day in January, I stood at the very end of a jetty on Newport Beach. (I don’t live in California, but I’ll take a work trip to the left coast in the middle of winter every year, please and thank you.) I hadn’t originally wanted to walk all the way to the end of the jetty, out where the water gets deep and the waves crash. There were so many jagged-edged rocks, and I know my own proclivity toward injury. I also have a thing with sharks (that thing being a massive fear of sharks), so the whole experience seemed less than enjoyable.
But I wanted to see the view from there. It felt like it might mean something to me. So I cautiously walked out. It was probably only thirty yards long, but it took me a few minutes to maneuver my way down the rocks. The view was beautiful, and I was right: it was worth the trek. I stood there—Ellie Holcomb’s latest album, Red Sea Road, in my ears—watching the ocean, while somehow standing right in the middle of it. I was so glad I’d made the effort.
That is, until the waves started to crash, each one a little wilder than the last. As I watched them roll in and out with increasing force, I became nervous, pushing my hands out in front of me like a crossing guard and saying out loud, “Okay, waves, be cool. Settle down.”
And then I heard a tiny giggle behind me.
Unbeknownst to me, a family had walked out to the end of the jetty as well. The son, no older than seven, was standing right behind me. “You can’t boss the ocean like that,” he said to me, laughing. And I laughed, too, though admittedly a little embarrassed.
But he was right: I can’t control the waves. I know I can’t. (But it felt good to try.) And yet, when life presents those walk-to-the-edge-of-the-jetty opportunities, I’m game. I get “brave,” then act as if I can control what happens next. As soon as something gets uncomfortable—like those waves crashing a little too high for my liking—I want to take control.
It seems like this is all God wants to talk with me about these days: control, and my lack of it. And my continual persistence in trying to prove to Him that I’ve got everything under control, thankyouverymuch.
But I don’t. So I constantly find myself returning to Him, confessing those moments when I grasp for the reins, then gently allowing His Word, His voice, to remind me that me being out of control isn’t all that bad. Because in reality, He’s been in control all along.
Admitting my lack of control is just an admission of what’s true: God controls all the things. Nothing is out of His grasp or view. Not oceans or governments, the weather or my heart. I’m never really flailing or falling—I’m held, kept. No matter how chaotic life feels, the waves will not overtake me. The One whose hand stretched out over the ocean waters—the One who created them—can surely calm them (Isaiah 23:11; 48:13). Nothing moves without His knowledge.
I can’t stand before the sea and tell the waves which way to roll. But He can. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in my life (Romans 8:11). I can’t heal my own heart, save the lost, right the wrongs, or calm the storm—in me, in my home, or in the world. But He can. And He does. Because He holds all things together.