My kids love to tell the story of the time when two of them were out in the ocean during our family vacation and got caught in a rip tide. Let me say quickly that these were not 6 year olds. They were teenagers who knew how to swim, and who knew that when the tide is pushing you out to sea, you either float for a few minutes, or you swim parallel with the ocean until you can make your way into shore. They said they were doing all of those things but it wasn’t working. So, they started yelling for me to come out and help them. This is why they love to tell the story, because they claim that as they were screaming their lungs out, I was happily sitting on the beach, sipping a drink and reading a magazine. Look, I don’t remember that event at all, and therefore I don’t think it happened. But their version was they were struggling for their very existence while their dad was oblivious.
I thought about that last week when I was sitting on the same beach, watching my grandchildren in the water. The tide was rough and they are little, so their father and mother were out there with them, keeping a close eye. Each of the little guys was wearing a swim vest or a floatie. They were also sometimes holding onto a raft or a boogie board. I noticed that even with all of that to keep them afloat, the inevitable happened. A big wave would surprise them, tossing them hard to the surf, sometimes bringing tears along with their scraped knees and elbows.
It reminded me that there is nothing we can hold onto in the ocean, or in all the world, that will protect us from any possibility of harm. I know Bill Withers used to tell me that I could lean on him. He said, “You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand, we all need somebody to lean on.” Now that I’ve put that song in your head, let’s say thanks, Bill, but I need something more substantial to lean on! If we can’t lean on Bill, what can we depend on? Some would say, “I need to look out for number one. After all, when push comes to shove, and every other cliché I can think of, there’s only one person I can count on, and that’s this one: me.” Can I put it to you gently? You are about the last person you should be leaning on and counting on when the roll is called up yonder. Giving yourself a big ‘ol bear hug through life will not prepare you to meet the Lord. Just the opposite. OK, so what else can we hold onto? Well, there’s money. Stuff. Jesus said there’s not enough money or stuff anywhere to secure one sorry soul. He said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” OK, maybe we could hold onto education. Maybe the key is just knowing more, and piling up degrees. Hey, education is a great floatie, and we should all have some, but in the storm that’s coming, it will not hold your head above water. No, the hymn writer has it right: our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. He alone is the Word of Life. Jesus Christ is our only Savior.
And here’s great news: He will hear your cry. He will never ignore your plea for help when the waves are overtaking you.