For a southern Californian, waves are a normal part of life. Most waves are classified as “white wash,” producing a mushy lapping against the shore after a distant journey from their prior point of origin. Others are quite large and powerful — a surfer’s dream. Typical waves, however, share two common traits. First, they are formed by wind; and the stronger the wind patterns, the bigger the waves. This is why the comparatively “waveless” Atlantic coast experiences West Coast sized waves during hurricane season. Second, typical waves form, break, reach land ... and then dispel.
A tsunami, however, is different in many respects. While typical waves are generated by weather patterns and are thus quite predictable, tsunami waves are conceived in seclusion. Tsunamis are generated by a geographical disturbance deep on the ocean floor — usually an underwater landslide or earthquake. Due to the disturbance, a significant amount of ocean water is dispelled — pushed upward and outward ... creating a relative wall of water versus a wind-blown wave. According to FEMA.gov, tsunamis can exceed 100 miles per hour in open water and well over 100 feet high before reaching shore! Again, due to the clandestine nature wherewith tsunamis originate, those unknowingly enjoying the day at a tropical beach may never suspect a problem ... until it’s far too late.
Wave patterns parallel, quite cogently, normal life on earth. Typical waves are an anticipated part of human life. Most experience “white wash” daily — waves that emerge sporadically, produce a certain degree of consternation and then, dispel. For example, the price of gasoline jumps 5 cents a gallon since the last fill up. That’s frustrating, but not terribly surprising. An unrecognized “tic” is emanating from the aging Toyota’s engine compartment; a likely harbinger of unwelcome news from the mechanic. Well, things do wear out. The age spots are beginning to appear and, it now seems, darken. OK ... so everyone ages.
Life’s larger waves, however, pack a more powerful punch. Factory lay-offs arrive sooner than expected. Within 30 days, the masses of U.S. unemployed will get another infusion. How will I feed my family? We bid as high as possible for as long as possible, but the house of our dreams will be occupied by others! So much for fairy tale endings. This year’s anticipated tax refund must now be applied toward a new refrigerator. Didn’t the warranty just expire? Big waves are less expected ... provide more of a jolt — but send relatively few screaming over the edge. Again, most anticipate the realities of life on earth to produce an occasional, largely disappointing tidal surge. So be it ... life goes on.
“Soul Tsunamis,” however, are categorically different. First of all, they strike with precious little warning, and punish with a devastating, life-altering force. Often, it is only in surveying the calamitous aftermath that one gains a clue as to what has truly transpired.
Consider a few examples: “Can the divorce papers staring up from the kitchen counter be real? I never saw it coming!”; or, “No matter how I work the numbers, 40 percent of our retirement savings is gone! How will we possibly survive?”; or, finally “Cancer doesn’t run in our family. How could the lump be malignant?” Unlike tsunamis in the physical realm, most “soul tsunamis” aren’t life threatening — though many wish they were. They leave their victims equally battered and dazed spiritually ... yet very conscious of the reality of the immediate predicament. How does one go on ... if presently surveying the aftermath of such personal devastation? How does one find peace ... knowing the “big one” could strike at any moment? Though no easy answers exist, one wise suggestion is offered: Surrender everything. To whom? In what way?
Nobody discounts the troubles associated with human existence. Jesus Himself, stated: “In this world you will have trials” ... and it’s true! Tidal surges of various sizes and force impact life on a daily basis; yet herein lies the problem. Because typical waves in life are relatively survivable in one’s own strength, many draw the damning conclusion that man does, after all, control his own destiny. It is only when “soul tsunamis” strike, rending normal life inoperable, that this myth is dispelled. In truth, men have no actual control over even their next breath. Consider several passages from scripture:
13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit. 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. James 4:13-14
In other words, it may appear for a time that man controls his own destiny — but only for a time. In a related passage, another writer concurs:
24 “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. 25 But the word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Peter 1:24-25
Same song … different verse. We are only here for a brief, highly combustible time. Yet, this passage unveils a ray of glimmering hope to an otherwise desperate conclusion. In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, something stable and dependable remains. The Word of the Lord remains forever. Consider a final, encouraging perspective from the apostle Paul:
17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long (relatively speaking). Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Corinthians 4:18
The conclusion? We may not dodge all the typical waves of life. A “soul tsunami” may even rock us to the core; but all is not lost as long as life’s Architect is still enthroned over all. Why surrender all to Him? As we learn to trust and praise God through thick and thin, even the “soul tsunamis” of life will become but one more chance for our Creator to prove Himself faithful to his trusting children. Are you living within His care today?
About the author
Jim Harper is the pastor of Mountain Bible Church, 302 E. Rancho Road, Payson. Services are at 8:45 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Sunday.
To learn more about the church and its programs, call (928) 472-7800.