The boat was heeling over until water rushed over the rail. I braced myself to capsize at any second as the howling wind and rain beat into my face. Visions from the movie White Squall (one in which almost everybody drowned in a storm at sea) ran through my mind. I wasn’t nervous. I had passed that state ten minutes ago. I was afraid.
The incident happened a few years ago when Melanie and I were taking sailing lessons. We were in the middle of Sir Francis Drake Channel when our instructor pointed toward the horizon and said, “See that squall in the distance?” “Yes,” we answered, expecting him to tell us how we would sail around it.
“We’re going to sail right into the middle of it,” he said. “Take compass bearings, because you won’t be able to see land when we reach the middle of it.” I assumed he knew what he was doing. We soon learned that his purpose was to teach us how to maneuver the boat in adverse conditions so that we would be prepared in the event that someone ever fell overboard.
“There’s no better place to do a man-overboard drill than in a storm. That’s where people are most likely to fall overboard,” he explained. “That makes sense,” I thought. It only made sense until we sailed into the storm. I wasn’t prepared for its intensity.
He had thrown the life preserver overboard several times and we had rehearsed making a sudden stop, turning around to retrieve it, as we would do if it were a person in the water. Things had gone fairly smooth the first few times. But this last time was different. As I trimmed the sail to bring it closer to the center of the boat, Melanie began to turn the boat to make our tack.
Suddenly, in one quick instant, the wind caught the sail and the boat heeled over on its side so that the mast almost touched the water. That’s when the panic hit me. It was at that point that I braced myself to capsize. I didn’t know what mistake we had made, but I thought it was a big one.
Instantly, I turned to look at our instructor for help. As I looked toward him, I saw him standing there – calmly. He had one foot on the rail, where water was rushing over into the boat and the other on the deck of the boat. And in the midst of all this, there was an expression of perfect calm on his face.
I immediately thought to myself, “Things must be okay. He understands sailing better than us and he is perfectly calm.” I held on, the boat soon righted itself and everything was fine.
When the situation was all over, I remarked to our instructor, “You seemed calm through the whole ordeal. I was scared to death until I saw your expression. Then I assumed everything must be okay.”
“I knew the boat would turn up into the wind and everything would be alright,” he answered. “That’s why I wasn’t worried.”
I thought about what he said later and realized that life is like sailing the boat on that day. Sometimes, we’re going along with smooth sailing when suddenly we find ourselves in a storm. We may be doing our best to navigate through it when a gust of adversity blows into our lives and threatens to capsize everything we hold dear.
What do we do in those moments? We turn our attention to Jesus. We intentionally look into His face and when we do, we will see the same expression I saw on our instructors face that day at sea – one of complete peace.
Jesus isn’t worrying about the storms of this world because He already knows how it will all turn out in the end. After all, He is the one who controls the wind and the waves (see Mark 4:41). He has everything under control.
Are you going through a storm in your life? Keep your eyes on Jesus. He has His way in whirling winds and storms and the clouds are the dust of His feet. (Nahum 1:3) You aren’t going to drown. The captain of your salvation is in control of your destiny and He will see to it that you arrive safely at the destination He has planned for you. Don’t watch the waves. Watch Him and know that regardless of any evidence to the contrary, everything is going to be alright.