Have you ever felt like you were drowning?
One summer, at the beach with my family, I was sitting on the sand at the edge of the water right where the waves break. I had my arm wrapped around my younger brother, who is severely disabled. I was sixteen years old; my brother was twelve. Physically he was the same size as me, but functionally, he was more like a toddler.
It was a calm, beautiful day. The waves were steady and constant. We were contentedly digging in the sand at the edge of the water.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge wave knocked us over; before I realized what was happening, we were pulled out and under water. It happened so quickly, and all I knew was I couldn’t let go of my brother who couldn’t swim at all. I was a strong swimmer, but at that moment, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t tell which way was up in the dark water. I was trying, but failing.
We were drowning.
But then, just as suddenly as we were pulled under, another wave carried us to a sandbar and face planted us, and with that point of reference I could stand us up. We gasped for air. We were safe.
That was years ago, but I will never forget what it felt like to be drowning.
When our second child was born, a little girl, I was ecstatic. I had always wanted a sister growing up, and now my two beautiful, sweet girls had each other. I was grateful, but I was really struggling. Hormones are real, right? Working full time and raising two little girls meant no one getting enough sleep. Our marriage was really difficult. My family was close, but my relationship with my mom was hard during this season—hard like it never had been before. There was tension everywhere.
I felt like I was failing in every category.
It was as if I’d been suddenly knocked down by a huge wave—and I couldn’t breathe. It felt like no one saw me, it felt like no one understood. I didn’t even understand. All I knew was that I was drowning.
And then, in the middle of my gasping for air, my clawing to find the way up: My mom died. She died suddenly. She wasn’t even sick. My mom, who had always been my best friend—even when our relationship was in this hard season—was gone.
I remember lying face down in the field in front of my parents’ house and wailing like I never had before. I remember praying. For my mom. For some sort of miracle. And I remember feeling completely and utterly alone.
I needed help, but the one person who could always help me, my best friend, was no longer on the planet. The world I knew was instantly and entirely shattered into a million pieces.
And there, broken beyond repair, broken beyond words, I realized that I only thought I was drowning before. Now I actually was.
I was drowning in a deep darkness.
And as I lay there, face down in the field wailing for my mom, I found that all I could speak was one word. Over and over, wailing in the darkness, in between my gasps for air, barely audible through my hoarse voice, I said ‘Jesus’. Over and over. Jesus.
And Jesus met me there.
He did it in such a loving way, meeting me exactly where I was. His presence was SO tangible in the middle of the loss, the mystery, everything I couldn’t understand. He reached out and took my hands and lovingly wrapped me in His arms. And I know it was Jesus, because that’s how He meets people.
Among others, that’s how He met Peter.
In Matthew 14:29-31, we see an example:
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!” Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?” The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down.
Peter started to sink, and he cried out for help.
And isn’t that the way Jesus often meets us? When we feel like we are drowning.
He met me there the night my Mom went to heaven. And when my two grandmothers passed away in the year to follow. And when our marriage nearly ended shortly after. And when I wrestled through crippling anxiety. He met me there each time, in too many moments to mention.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you know what it’s like to feel like you are drowning and all alone. It’s almost unfathomable that He shows up in our mess; that He comes straight into the middle of the storm, and reaches out through the darkness, through the wind and the waves.
But He does. And He’s here, right now, too; meeting you right where you are, in whatever state you are in. In your brokenness, in your mess, in your struggle. Jesus is here meeting you, too.
The psalmist experienced this too. Psalm 19 says, ‘He reached down from on high and took hold of me and drew me out of deep water and rescued me.’
His hand is already reaching out. All we have to do is take it.