Panic hit like a freight train. I woke up to hundreds of social media notifications on an otherwise regular Wednesday, and the one thought running through my mind was: I’ve been hacked again.
I waited for the page to load, my stomach in knots, remembering the last time this happened. Sure enough, thousands of comments filled the screen, another hundred appearing every time I clicked “see more”, and my mouth literally dropped open as I scrolled.
My eyes filled with tears as I read each and every one, slowly realizing that 99% of the strangers leaving messages wrote their own versions of “me too” or replied to someone else with a kind word or prayer.
The day before, I prayed, “God, let it cross the screen of whoever needs it today.” I took a deep breath, clicked publish, closed the browser, and stepped away. After five months of quietly sitting with the image, I attempted to put it into words, certain I didn’t have the “right” ones but confident it was time.
There must be someone who needs this visual, too, I thought.
This summer, while at the beach with my family, a storm arrived out of the clear blue. One minute the sun was shining, the waves were lapping, and the wind was a gentle breeze. The next, we scrambled to gather chairs and strained to keep the tent from flying. Rain fell in sheets and I inched forward, walking straight into a wall of wind.
It was hilarious — one of those ‘this is a memory in the making’ moments — until I stood on the balcony of the rented condo and saw the speck of a bird riding out the crashing waves. As if we switched places, I watched the bird from above and I told the One who walks on water, “That’s me right there and I’m exhausted.”
This year has been a tsunami, to put it mildly. The number of times I’ve said, “The hits just keep on coming. Every time I think I see a break in the waves, the storm picks up,” would be laughable… if it weren’t so heartbreaking.
More than ever before, I’m uninterested in pretty words that are empty promises. If you had a similar year, I imagine the same is true for you. But if you’ll let me, I’m coming up for air to share the anchor that has held.
It’s all I’ve got; it’s been more than enough.
One day, every storm will be permanently silenced. One day, chaos will be calmed for good. But for today: We don’t have to hold it together. There is One who is holding us, and He’s familiar with waves. Sometimes Jesus says, “Peace, be still” to the waters that rise, and sometimes, instead, He says those words to our overwhelmed hearts. But He never shows up with a tidy “just choose joy!” bow, never dismisses our sadness or grows weary of how long we’ve struggled to stay afloat. No, Hope just gets in the boat.
And, apparently, sometimes Hope uses a comment section to remind those who are exhausted that they’re far from alone.
The post reached nearly one million people. At first, I was heartbroken. Just one person in the middle of an intense storm is one too many. But the more I scrolled, the wider I smiled, struck by the visual of strangers reaching out to each other with encouragement like a life preserver. There were no cliches, just compassion and kindness lifting up those who raised a hand and said, “The waves won’t stop and I’m really tired.”
I wonder if you feel that way today, if you’re ready for the calendar page to turn so 2023 moves to the rearview. I wonder if the storm came out of nowhere and you’re barely inching forward, if you sang “All is calm, all is bright” on Christmas Eve while gulping for air in between the waves. I wonder if this year took everything you had and then asked for more.
There’s nothing magical about the new year, no guarantee that you and I will catch our breath right as the clock strikes midnight, but there’s a gift we get to keep unwrapping long after Christmas morning. The ever-present promise of Emmanuel, God With Us, will hold true in the storm. Jesus will stay the same no matter the calendar page.
If you’ve been pummeled by waves, you’re far from alone — there are many of us right there with you. But more importantly, we have an anchor that will hold fast, an assurance that Hope not only gets in the boat, but Hope will hold.
Hebrews 6:19 promises: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (NIV).
The waves might keep on coming and the storm may keep on raging, but the sun will keep on rising. We may not know when and we may not see how, but we can trust Who.
God sees the other side, and He will see us through.
If your 2023 was a tsunami and you’d like more encouragement as you ride out the storm, Kaitlyn’s book Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between will help you choose hope for tomorrow when today feels like a question mark.