At dawn, I’m on the beach. It’s deserted—just me, a pelican, and the churning waves.
And my churning mind.
I want to simply enjoy the beauty of the ocean, but I can’t silence the creeping fear and dread at the back of my mind. Two of my grandparents are facing dire diagnoses, and I’m scared of what the months ahead will hold. What’s going to happen? How much is this going to hurt? Like the sand swirling under each wave, I have no control over where I’m tossed.
The question keeps haunting me: Will God be enough for me in this? The grief won’t take my life, but maybe it’ll take my joy. When the tide flows out, will it take with it my ability to sing aloud of God’s steadfast love every morning (Ps. 59:16)? I fear all my delight in the Lord has been a façade that the first hard knock will take down.
Along the length of the beach, as far as I can see, there’s a jagged line on the sand, marking the edge of the last wave to sweep up it. A boundary set there by the God who “assigned to the sea its limit” (Prov. 8:29). There’s only so far those waves will reach. As he does to the “proud waves” in Job 38:11, the Creator looks at them charging ahead and says, “No further.”
Isn’t that true also of the worries and sorrows I fear will overwhelm me? All my days are in his hands. The God who formed the spectacular coastline also chooses everything that comes to me. Because we live in a fallen world, tainted by the sins of all humanity, my lot will include suffering. But these trials are designed to form and remind and purify, not to destroy. All things will work for the good of those who love Jesus (Rom. 8:28).
The waves lap at my feet and, if the wind is particularly strong, may soak me to the knees. But I won’t drown in them: “Though the waves toss, they cannot prevail” (Jer. 5:22). God looks at my anguish and says, “No further.”
An image comes to mind as I watch the ships far back on the horizon: Jesus in the boat in the middle of the storm, his disciples’ fear—my own fear. And there’s peace. “Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know, his voice who ruled them while he lived below.”1
The sun hasn’t quite risen yet. Clouds cluster low on the horizon, just hiding the sun. Where it’s about to peek out, the cloud is rimmed with gold. There’s enough there to give me hope that the light is coming. Then up comes the sun, gold spilling across the sky and bouncing off the surface of the water.
The beams of the Son are about to spill over too. We’re in the dawn, awaiting the fullness of the new day. God is orchestrating human history, watching as each day unfolds with all its terror and toil and laughter and love. At just the right moment, he will say, “No further.” He’ll send Jesus back to end this world as we know it and bring in the new creation, where there’ll no longer be “mourning, nor crying, nor pain” (Rev. 21:4).
Then he’ll turn to me. The one who has sinned against him daily, who has rebelled and grumbled and faltered in my trust of him. I deserve to hear “No further” as I stand at the threshold of his perfect kingdom. But he will say to me, like Aslan does, “Come further in! Come further up!”2 I’ll step onto that golden shore of endless daylight and enjoy my God forever.
With that hope before me—with that glimpse of the calm ocean beyond the crashing, crushing waves—I can enjoy the sand between my toes now. I need not be anxious when the waves of suffering edge closer to me. I need not fear that the tide will come too high, engulfing forever my joy in the Lord. Remembering his promises to sustain me, I can look at the anxiety encroaching on my mind and say, “No further.”
- Kathrina von Schlegel, “Be Still My Soul,” https://hymnary.org/text/be_still_my_soul_the_lord_is_on_thy_side.
- C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: HarperCollins, 2000), 181.