Anxiety at Sea: Who’s in Your Boat?

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I recently was blessed with the opportunity to travel overseas and work with the people of Ghana. In our time there I was overwhelmed by the kindness, joy and love that seemed to be woven into the DNA of the Ghanaian people. They welcomed us with open arms and invited us in to take part in seemingly anything we desired to be a part of.

After over 30 hours of travel and a long first day of our trip we retreated back to the grounds that we were staying on and as a team we went to sit down by the ocean. Among causal conversation, a mix of getting to know each other and recapping the days events, we looked out on the horizon. When we looked out earlier that day there was water as far as the eye can see… but tonight was different. Maybe we were hallucinating, but it seemed as if a shoreline had creeped. Hundreds of lights danced up and down as we gazed miles into the distance. For a moment we were confused, but then a wise voice came and brought peace to our confusion.

“They are fishing boats” said a member of our team who had previously been to Ghana. “Hundreds of them go out each night, and they stay out all night long setting their nets.” That seemed to make more sense than a monumental landmass creeping into the Gulf of Guinea over the span of 24 hours, so we went with it. Sure enough, we went to sleep and the next day we saw hundreds of boats heading back to shore as we ate our breakfast. Upon this confirmation, an idea was born… we had to get on one of those boats.

On our last day in Ghana we decided to go on a little excursion. We took a bus down to the boat harbor and we were determined to find a crew that would take us for a little joy ride. So determined in fact that we were willing to shell out up to 100 cedi… that’s about 20 bucks. After several failed attempts we found a man that spoke English, he chatted with his crew, and we were set. Time to roll. The five of us loaded up and our friend, the only one that spoke English on the crew, pushed us off and waved good-bye.

There we were… five Americans packed into a wooden boat (think large canoe), with three Ghanaian men, none of which spoke a lick of English, sailing off into the Gulf of Guinea to the sound of an engine that more closely resembled a weed whacker than a method of movement. We had thousands of dollars of technology on board and all of the footage from our entire trip… What could possible go wrong?

The first thing that I noticed, which seemed to be quite obvious, is that there was an alarmingly large hole directly in front of me that was taking on water so quickly that the Ghanaian in front of me never stopped bailing with his bucket. Hmmm… seems promising. As we moved out to sea the boat seemed anything but stable. My friend BJ and I tried out best to play it cool, but let’s be honest… we were one giant cramp the entire way out. Shifting our body weight back and forth trying to counter balance the inevitable toppling of our boat. I remember thinking multiple times…

“We are going to flip out here in the middle of the ocean, lose everything we own, and be stuck in open water.” That terrified me. But amongst my flexing, cramping, and shifting I peeked forward and the Ghanaian man in front of me didn’t seem worried at all… actually he seemed alarmingly peaceful.  

I wonder if this is exactly how the disciples felt in Mark chapter four when they searched for Jesus amidst their impending doom, only to find him fast asleep.

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Now my Ghanaian friend on the boat did not proceed to rebuke the waves and calm the seas like Jesus,  but I must say that his nature of peace coupled with his experience at sea helped me to see that there was nothing to be worried about. He had been here before, he had felt the waves and the rocking of the boat, and it didn’t worry him. In fact, if it weren’t for the gaping wound in our boat he may have very well been taking a snooze himself, just as one of his buddies was doing directly behind us (seriously).

I think a lot of us are going through life without realizing that Jesus is in our boat. We sometimes get rocked by the winds of culture and the waves of loss and we look around to see nothing but chaos and turmoil. We rebuke the God that controls the seas instead of realizing that he was the one who suggested we get on the boat in the first place.

He brought us out to depths and it is there that He shows His power and might.

It is there that He shows His patience and peace.

It is there that he says “Why are you afraid?”

There are two lies that we can consistently find at the root of worry and anxiety:

  1. God is not in control
  2. God is not good

The disciples fell victim to both. That God was not in control of the wind and the waves and that He was not good to keep His word, if you remember Jesus had just said “Let us go across to the other side”. He literally told them they would make it to the other side. Now, if I was a betting man I would bet that you too have fallen victim to these lies recently in your life. Maybe you just got laid off from your job, or a situation you’re entering isn’t quite as you expected. Maybe you just broke up with the one you’d thought you would spend the rest of your life with. Maybe you’re entering a season of complete unknowns and you just don’t see how you could possible get to the other side.

Please know that Jesus is in your boat. He didn’t say go across to the other side, he said let US go across. He is with you… hand in hand… stride for stride. If he “falls behind” it is because you ran ahead. Don’t be fooled by the whispers from the enemy. When the Prince of Peace is on your boat peace is always an option.

“Well Quinn, how do I find that peace?”

Great question, I love when you ask something I am about to answer. Paul gives us a perfect road map in Philippians chapter 4:6-7.  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The answer: pray. Paul literally calls you to prayer four times in the same sentence where he also casts out anxiety in all circumstances. In every situation… by prayer and petition (another word for prayer), with thanksgiving (a position of prayer), present your requests (prayer) to God.

When you are facing a storm do you cast your gaze upon the Prince of Peace who can be found sleeping in the stern of the ship? He isn’t worried… he is the one that called you to the other side. He is the one that helped you into the boat. He is the one that said “Hey, let’s go together”. He wants in the boat… invite Him in. And when the winds begin to rise and the wave rock the boat shift your gaze to the peace that surpasses understanding.

If you were wondering… we made it back alive. Our boat didn’t capsize and we didn’t fill with water. My Ghanaian friend remained stoic the entire time, and if I ever felt the need to shift my weight and count it all as lost I simply casted my gaze on him. His peace brought me peace. His I’ve-been-here-before mentality kept me calm. How much more can Jesus bring us peace in our trials? Imagine if we immediately shifted out focus to him.

Listen to Anxiety at Sea: Who's in Your Boat? on iTunes

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Quinn Rivera // Humbled Daily Co-founder, doctor in training and aspiring professional lover of life.

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