Stories abound of boats that survive hurricanes – even when the same storm strips every tree of their leaves and branches, even when buildings are leveled and living creatures perish. The common difference maker between a sunken ship and one that stays afloat? The anchor.
When a storm comes barrelling toward her boat, the skipper will drop an anchor from the bow (front), securing it to the solid ground below.1 Pointing toward the wind, the boat won’t capsize. The anchor keeps the boat from getting shoved into the land or sucked out to sea.
Years ago, when we were boaters, our seagreen ski boat could usually outrun storms, so I’m not sure how we would’ve fared if we’d had to ride one out. But we did learn the value of a good anchor, and that lesson came on a sunny day when the lake looked like a sea of glass.
We pulled within several yards of land to jump-in for a refreshing swim. I don’t recall if we made the decision not to anchor or just forgot because of the lake’s deceptive calm. Anchorless, however, we put ourselves in danger. Distracted by our own splashes, we failed to notice the boat creeping inland, trapping us between it and the shore until it loomed over us and bumped into us. Thankfully, a nimble, quick-minded someone climbed aboard and got that boat back out to safer depths. Then. Then, we anchored.
I think about how our boating incident mirrors our lives – how when we feel like we’re floating along just fine in life, we can get caught unaware, trapped and even sucked under by a storm that has blown up out of nowhere.
The lesson? Hold onto Christ every single day of this life on earth. Stormy or calm seas, hang onto the person and promises of Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews wants us to understand just how much we can count on God’s promises to hold firm, to always bring us through every tempest. The author points us toward Abraham’s reality – no matter what problems arose, no matter how long it took, Abraham clung to the covenant God made with him. He anchored himself to the promise that he would be the father of a great nation despite being childless (Hebrews 6:11-15). He held firm even when waves of doubt tried to drown him and winds of distrust tried to break his grip.
Paul spoke of Abraham in the same way, saying “he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). Abraham’s faith in God’s promises held him steady through every season, storm, and surprise.
These New Testament writers offer to us the imperfect Abraham as the one to imitate. He may not have made the healthiest choices all the time, but when it counted most, Abraham trusted God. He clung to faith even when he couldn’t see how the outcome God promised could be realized.
JD Walt helps his modern readers contrast Abraham’s brand of belief with our world’s anecdote:
“Positive thinking ties our faith to some preconceived and hoped for outcome. Faith, on the other hand, does not seek a particular outcome, but rather anchors all hope in God alone and the surety of His promises.”JD Walt, The Daily Text, Nov 10, 2018
Positive thinking is putting our hope in ourselves, others, or circumstances. It’s living life anchorless yet counting on things beyond our control to hold us steady.
I’ve been learning this specific lesson in recent months. My form of “positive thinking” looks like planning. The minute life throws a curveball, my automatic response is to kick into planner-mode. My thoughts spiral with every possible scenario so I can plan for each outcome. Each imagining raises my stress. Each plan seeks to lower the stress, giving me the false illusion of control. In other words, I trick myself into thinking “I’ve got this.” And all the while, the boat is pushing me toward the shore where rocks hungrily await my approach.
This way of reacting to life is so habitual that the other night I woke up from an awful dream with tears in my eyes. The dream felt so real, that before I could fully awaken, my mind began planning where I would go in the face of such a loss. Later that morning, I took all the feelings, all the plans to God and eventually laughed out loud as I saw how ingrained this tendency is in me. And God nodded a silent, “I told you so.” Now we’re working together on changing this response in me. He’s teaching me how to put my hope in Him and His promises instead of my plans.
Positive thinking has very little actual power to change situations or to give us what we hope for. But, guess who does? Our Promise-Keeper. Our Anchor.
A Thing With Feathers
We’ve been learning that this hope is not a wish for something we don’t really think will happen. It’s not thinking the best of a situation so that it’ll magically work out the way we want. It’s not even tossing our fears thoughtlessly in the wind, hoping God will fix everything. For all our searching, it may still be hard to put into words just what this hope is.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –Emily Dickinson
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.2
In her own poetic way, Emily uses metaphor to compare this hope to a bird:
This hope gets in our soul – it sings truth and keeps us warm.
This hope perseveres – it never stops, never lets go…even in the storm.
This hope remains with us – without ever asking anything of us except to trust.
Why? Because this hope is a person. It’s His good will for us. It’s our trusting His promises. It’s us releasing our plans so that this hope becomes our anchor. Thus moored, we become immovable in our faith and unsinkable in our determination to remain in Christ.
Friends, we don’t need to float through our days here on earth, allowing the winds and currents to take us where they please. We don’t need to create our own anchors in attempts to wait out the storms of life. And we don’t want to get caught off guard by a sneaky storm – because we have the strongest anchor ever. When we attach ourselves to our Solid Rock, we’re aligning our hearts and minds with His. We are trusting that He will not only get us through the storm but that He’ll be the One to lead us where we need to go. We are believing that God’s promises will never fail to hold because He has the power to outlast and overcome every storm.
So, whether we find ourselves battered by gale-force winds, watchful of darkening clouds building on the horizon, or content in our current calm season, we can trust that this hope is an anchor for our souls every single day of our lives (Hebrews 6:19).
Father God, hope against hope, Abraham believed You. He trusted You’d keep your word. And we want to do the same, running to You for refuge with confidence because we hold to the hope that lies before us. In faith, we trust that You are the only One in all the universe with the power to bring all your promises into reality. That You are the only One who can help us navigate life without drifting off course. Lord Jesus, You demonstrated your power over storms when You spoke a word, and the wind and rain stopped. We pray our faith will believe that same power can speak into our storms. Help us build a trust in You – that whether You stop the storm or bring us through it, your power and goodness are the same. We’re so grateful for your promises to be with us when we pass through the waters and to keep the rivers from sweeping over us. May these assurances be an anchor for our souls. Holy Spirit, we confess how easily we launch out in our own strength, with our own plans, only to be swamped by the raging seas of life. So, we ask You to be our constant reminder to anchor ourselves to Christ. We ask that You would speak over us the truth of all God’s promises and the power of putting our hope in them. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Romans 4:18; Hebrews 6:18, 19; Matthew 8:24-27; Isaiah 43:2; John 16:13)
Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
- 1 – To drop an anchor in this situation, the boat would have to be in a harbor or near the shore. There are, however, “sea anchors” that are used while out on the open seas. These parachute-looking anchors are thrown out behind the boat so that the wind catches the pocket, creating drag, acting as a brake. The effect is similar.
- 2 – Emily Dickinson’s poem is in the public domain and can be found here.
- Our “This Hope” playlist has a song by Hillsong called “Anchor.” Its lyrics capture SO MUCH of what God is trying to open our hearts and minds to in this series about suffering and this hope — about how He and His promises are the anchor for our souls.
There is hope in the promise of the cross
You gave everything to save the world You love
And this hope is an anchor for my soul
Our God will stand unshakeable
Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
- This spring we’re leaning into the rhythm of meditation. Unlike eastern meditation that seeks to empty the mind and self of everything, Christian meditation desires to fill our minds and beings with Christ. SO — each day, to the best of our abilities, let’s meditate on God’s Word, or as my friend JD Walt says, “ruminate on the Word just as a cow ruminates on his cud.” In other words, don’t rush. Read. Pause. Listen. Reread. Pause. Receive. Give space for the Spirit to reveal and enlighten.
- This week, we can meditate (or ruminate) on Hebrews 6:13-20. I personally love the NLT version, but you land on what feels best to you. I’d love to hear how your time in these verses establishes a faith in you to hold onto this hope that is an anchor to your soul.
- Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world!