A few days ago, a series of pretty minor circumstances collided in my life to plunge me into a very bad, very sad afternoon. I could detail the situations that led me there, but I don’t want this to be about that. They really aren’t that big of a deal, anyway, and I don’t want to take attention away from where I’m headed.
In any case, as the sun sank behind the tree line and my bedroom fell into the darkness of evening, I gave in to the urge to collapse into my bed. As I curled into a ball and the tears began to soak the blanket under my head, I began to pray.
“Lord, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of fighting. I don’t want to always wonder when this is going to happen again. This is exhausting and I don’t want to do it anymore. Make it stop.”
It was pretty much the same prayer I always pray in those moments: a desperate, frustrated surrender cry, pleading for something to change. As I essentially repeated the same tearful words over and over, a phrase that had come to me earlier in the afternoon came back to mind.
The undercurrent of sadness.
The phrase first popped into my head as I watched my husband and daughter playing together. They were laughing and running in our back yard, exuding a joy and a love for life that in that moment, I had lost. I remember thinking about how those moments never last and how I never know when something will plunge me back into depression. It was as I had those thoughts that the words came to mind.
The undercurrent of sadness. It’s that current of sadness that is always flowing just under the surface of my life. It doesn’t always show itself and it doesn’t always have an affect on things, but it is always there. Always flowing.
And the words came back as I lay there in my darkening bedroom. This time, though, they came with a visual in my mind. I clearly envisioned my life as an ocean, with rolling waves and foaming crests, gray depths and light blue ripples, and the undercurrent of sadness always lurking beneath the surface. As I focused in on the image in my mind, that undercurrent became more and more prominent, growing in power until it carried the strength of a dangerous undertow.
If you’ve ever visited the beach, you know the dangers of an undertow. It’s an invisible current that develops beneath the surface of the water as waves approach the shore. The waves crash onto the beach, producing a counter-current that pulls out to sea. You can easily feel its effects standing in the shallows, as sand is pulled from under your feet and you struggle to keep your balance. When this current is particularly strong, lifeguards will issue undertow warnings and will sometimes close sections of beaches to prevent swimmers from being pulled deeper and deeper and further and further out to sea.
As I envisioned this undertow of sadness, I could also see myself struggling to keep my head above the water. From an underwater perspective, I saw my legs flailing for the bottom and my arms pushing to find the surface of the water. I could almost feel the splash of the water on my face as I saw myself sinking into the undertow.
Hold onto me, God. I’m trying to pull myself up and I’m trying to hold onto You, but I’m just not strong enough. Please….please hold on to me. Please don’t let me sink.
Then I saw His nail-scarred hand. I saw it outstretched – reaching – toward me. I saw it grab my hand from just below the surface. And I saw it holding onto me even as the undertow pulled.
I saw the picture in my mind and it perfectly matched the feeling in my heart.
Hold onto me, God. You have to hold onto me. You have to. You just have to.
And the words from one of my most recent favorite worship songs echoed in my ears: When the night is holding onto me, God is holding on.
He was holding onto me, and He is holding onto you, friend. Whatever the undertow is that threatens you today – be it an undertow of sadness or fear or stress or anxiety or illness, God is holding on. As the darkness of your circumstances holds onto you, God is holding on. When you can’t fight any more and you’re sure you’ll be pulled under, God is holding on.
He won’t arrive a moment too late, and he won’t ever let go. God is holding onto you, and He won’t ever let you sink.
Holding on with you,
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