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All Your Waves and Breakers Have Washed Over Me

This video may make you feel a bit seasick, but there’s nothing like a visual to tap into the right brain.  How I want you to see what the Lord has for you in this. The first water images were of an absence of water — a thirsty deer who has come to a dry riverbed — the psalmist saying his only water is his tears, day and night. (Isn’t that a picture of depression?)

But now, we have waves and breakers and a waterfall.

Meditate on Psalm 42:7-8. Write it out. This is one worthy of memorization, for it is so deep.

1. Several of you have caught that the mood if both positive and negative, there is water now, yet still the psalmist is talking to his downcast soul. How can “waves and billows” both drown you yet also save you? (Think of the story of Noah)

2. How may the very thing that you think is pulling you down, actually be an instrument of salvation? (If you can’t see it in your present circumstance, then look back to something you lost, something you thought you had to have, and now you see how God knew exactly what He was doing for your soul? Hope to hear some concise beautiful testimonies.)

3. Waves and breakers keep coming — what thought parallels this in verse 8?

4. Google Annie Johnson Flint’s poem “His Billows” — what insight does this give you?

5. Listen to the positive water images in Deep Deep Love of Jesus — share what you hear

6. My favorite phrase of all: “Deep calls to deep” — what do you think it means? I’ll share some favorite quotes, but want to hear from you first.

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  1. 4. Google Annie Johnson Flint’s poem “His Billows” — what insight does this give you?

    This is a beautiful poem! I’d neither heard of it nor read it until now, but what a blessing. This poem shows that sometimes we will actively experience the presence of God, but other times we will feel no relief in our troubles, yet His presence is steady (“They are His billows” repeated at every stanza’s beginning).

    I looked up “billows” to make sure I was understanding this word correctly (never quite understood it) and this is what I found:

    1.a great wave or surge of the sea.
    2.any surging mass: billows of smoke.

    They ARE His billows — waves, breakers, waterfalls, things that overwhelm. But just as the life-giving water is contained in the heart of the waterfalls, God is in the surging mass, in that great wave.

    6. My favorite phrase of all: “Deep calls to deep” — what do you think it means? I’ll share some favorite quotes, but want to hear from you first.

    I have often wondered about this phrase but have never decided what it really means! Could it perhaps be that with the Holy Spirit inside us as believers inside us, we long for the depths of God — His understanding, His love, His vast awesome nature — because we have been indwelt by His presence?

  2. When I was looking at Psalm 42:8 a couple hours ago, I saw something familiar: DAY and NIGHT and (at least, intellectually) made the connection with v. 3 where the psalmist said that tears had been his food day and night. I decided to reread Psalm 42 before I went to bed. Since “tears have been my food” for the past hour+, I won’t be surprised if they continue to be my food for awhile tonight.

    But now when I read vs 8, I see that tears aren’t my only food. God’s love is with me by day (and I don’t think this means that His love isn’t with me at night!) and “His song will be with me in the night.” What a comfort when my eyes are sore and I’m exhausted.

    1. Renee
      I prayed for you last nite.

  3. I think “Waves & Billows” can both drown you (Deep pain & sorrow we go through in this life), but also save’s you….with the Deep love that Jesus gives us. “Deep calls to Deep” In other words…the more Waves & Billows we go through (Deep pain)…the more Deep Love we have for Jesus. That is how I perceive it.

  4. In the last blog, we were asked to reflect on the question of why is our soul downcast, what has been our rock instead of the Lord? Because that substitute rock is shifting underneath us.

    My soul is downcast during times of grief. In the New American Standard translation it reads (verse 5)

    Why are you in despair, O my soul? (or “sunk down”)
    And why have you become disturbed within me?

    That is how I felt upon learning my nephew was dead. Despair, sunken down so, so very low. Nothing in the world around me was right anymore. The grief was raw and painful. It was deeply disturbing to see my other family members hurting so badly, my sister, my elderly parents, and to know there was no remedy.

    Now the grief is not so raw, but I can still feel that “sunk down” feeling, like when we celebrated my dad’s birthday yesterday and another family get-together with my nephew not being there continues to drive home the reality that he never will be with us here again.

    Then there are other times when my soul is disturbed within me because, I think, things are not the way I want them to be. My husband often calls me a “dreamer”, and I have it in my head how I want circumstances to be and even how I want people to behave and it is usually a Norman Rockwell scenario, and when people don’t live up to my expectations then I am disappointed and let-down. I guess I want this perfect little world where in my family everyone always is loving and gets along and there is closeness and intimacy.

    Then there are the times I play the comparison game, which a good Christian friend told me only leads to two things, either I end up feeling proud and superior or I come up lacking. So when I compare myself or my family to the “perfect” family, I only get depressed.

    That looking to others to meet my deepest needs is always going to produce discontentment, or wanting my circumstances to be perfect will always produce discontentment. Being discontent and ungrateful brings my soul to despair or to be downcast.

    In reflecting on the change in the water pictures, what do you see?

    I did a few word studies. The word “pant” in my concordance means “to long for – cry, pant”.

    So the psalmist is longing for God as the deer longs for water. His thirst longs to be satisfied, but all he gets are salty tears that run into his mouth. But suddenly there is a waterfall, thundering, mighty, and breakers and waves. Tons and tons of water.

    I get the picture of when I am longing for God, if He just gave me a nice glass of cool water, I would drink it and feel refreshed and thank you, I’ll be on my way now. When everything in my life is going well how I always start to live independently of God, which is really a big lie.

    But at the sound of His waterfalls, deep calls to deep. The word deep, which, interestingly the concordance said was usually “feminine” (it made me think of how our soul is referred to as feminine) had the following meanings: an abyss, as a surging mass of water; the deep as in the ocean or subterranian water supply, a deep (place).

    The word calls: to call out to (bewray) self. Webster’s dictionary defined “bewray” as an old English, archaic word which means to divulge, betray. Also calls means “to encounter” or “cry (unto)”.

    When will the psalmist, or me, for that matter, really encounter God, when or where does He divulge Himself or betray His presence to my very soul? Can it not be at the sound of His waterfalls, that roaring, deafening, crashing sound of water; when everything is giving way, and in the picture of His breakers and waves rolling over me? My thoughts are that God is not satisfied to hand me the “glass of water”, but it is in the suffering, the pummeling and molding of my selfish, thankless self, the times of fear and doubt, that He is right there.

    1. Susan I don’t think you are a dreamer. I believe you are yearning for a ‘taste of heaven’.

  5. In meditating on verses 7 and 8, this “deep calling to deep” is not some superficial thing. This is God connecting with the very essence of our being, our soul, at the deepest level. I wonder, who calls to who? I’ve never been to a waterfall, like Niagara Falls, but I can imagine that if I stood there and saw that water and heard the deafening noise of it, something within me would resound that this is a display of God’s majesty, His power and might in creating this.
    God revealing Himself in His creation, in nature.

    If it pictures a time of emergency, like being caught in a flood, hearing the sound of roaring water coming closer and closer, it would be terrifying. When I picture myself in that video clip of the ocean, alone out there in the huge waves and billows of the sea, my very soul would be crying out to God for help!

    In question #1. How can waves and billows both drown you and yet save you?

    This can be the very point of salvation for a person, when he comes to the end of himself, rock-bottom, everything he held onto is taken away. That is often when a person will look up to God, realizing he needs a Savior. Even for a Christian, when those waves and billows that God allows to happen to you figuratively drown you, when I think of a person drowned, the struggle is over, the body is stilled. You succumb to the water. And then God takes over when you are in a place of total helplessness and submission to Him. I’ve heard that a drowning person will fight his rescuer in his panic and often drown both of them. How I often “fight” my Rescuer! Or with my attitude and reaction to my circumstances I take everyone else around me down with me.

    This sounds strange, but I am almost getting a sense of peacefulness from verse 7, which I did not see before.
    “All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me.” Yet if I rest and listen carefully, I will hear “deep calling to deep”. I may have to strain my ears to hear it above the noise of the water. But it is there. God’s voice. I have to stop fighting against the waves. But that doesn’t mean give up. It is trusting God. He has me safe in His hand. He’s telling my soul that He has me. It’s not defeat. It’s relying on Him. The Creator of that mighty waterfall and powerful ocean has me, is showing me just how powerful and awesome He is.

  6. I liked the waves video; I think the waves are pretty 🙂 but also realize how dangerous they can be (winter is getting long, and I’m ready for some non-frozen waves).

    Here’s a link to a video that captures the “roar of the waterfalls.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsxXEX6qBcs

    There are videos that provide much better views of the size and majesty of Iguacu Falls, but many of them have music in the background. You can hear — and see— the falls from a distance, but close up, it’s almost impossible to carry on a conversation (at least without yelling).

    This reminds me that water does wash away “unnecessary stuff” and can drown out “noisy chatter” from the world around us, allowing us to think about what is important/central in life. e.g., After a tsunami or hurricane, we hear of people expressing gratefulness for those who survived and recognizing that they can “rebuild” or get more “stuff.”

  7. 1. The ‘waves/billows’ which threaten to drown me can save me because my adversity drives me to God. He alone has the power to pull me up and position me above my adversity. As I obey His commands and continually praise Him my priorities are in the right order. My soul might get drenched but I know the waves will not drag me under.

    2. The one thing which pulls me down the most is my Adamic nature. I know I am a new creature in Christ and sin no longer has dominion, but I am not yet freed from presence of sin. I am still incredibly selfish at times.
    I have made Amy Carmichael’s prayer mine.

    ‘God harden me against myself,
    The coward with pathetic voice
    Who craves for ease and rest and joy.
    Myself, arch-traitor to myself,
    My hollowest friend my deadliest foe,
    My clog whatever road I go.

    Without my Adamic nature I would not realize I need freedom from sin. I would not realize how much I need salvation, grace, and mercy.

    I liked the video of the waves. They were a powerful image on full screen.

    1. Tammy thanks for sharing this prayer. I made a bookmark of it.

  8. 6. Deep calls to deep-what do I think it means?

    I looked up the Hebrew word used for deep here and found out that it means–an abyss (as a surging mass of water), the deep (the main sea or the subterranean water-supply), deep (place) depth. I read those words before bed and when I awoke this morning the following came to mind. God is the main sea. Christ is the connecting pipe. The Holy Spirit is the faucet. When I turn on the faucet (Prayer) and get my glass of water and drink (Read God’s Word) my thirst is quenched (my soul is hydrated). I have never been to Niagara Falls but my mom has and there are always rainbows there. God’s reminder that He will never allow the waters to overtake you.

    1. Thanks for the rainbow reminder 🙂

  9. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

    “Deep calls to deep” reminds me of this verse, when than inner longing is so great. When outside pressures and “roaring” sounds keep coming and coming and coming, I tend to withdraw into myself. The “withdrawing” part is fine, if I withdraw to seek the Lord. If I just withdraw into myself, the vicious cycle of being downcast continues.

    It’s going to take me a couple days to pray through this chapter and for the lessons to move from my head to my heart. I can think of a time or two in the past when God used “drowning events” to save me. I have more difficulty seeing the benefit of current waves and breakers, but I am sensing that God may be leading me out of denial so that I do learn to move toward Him NOW. This might take me awhile because I like denial better than raw pain. (so, anyway, these are random thoughts about the questions as a whole, but I will continue to attempt this study at a “heart” level. . . all the while yelling “no, no, no!”)

    1. I like what you said, Renee. I too think, after working through the questions and reading the Scripture, “okay, now how do I apply this to my life? How do I work this out? How to really put it into practice so I can grow and mature spiritually?” The next time a wave of grief hits me, will I turn to the Psalms and talk to my soul and to the Lord?
      Or will I just get busy doing something to distract myself?
      Or back away from God?

      Keep going, Renee!! Get it into your heart!!!

  10. I agree with Renee about the waves being pretty. When we look at them we see the danger. It is very unlikely that a human adrift in those waves could survive. But what if there was no danger and we could just bob around in them or surf or whatever. I love rides at theme parks and playing in the waves in the ocean but when they become unsafe they are no longer fun. I’m not sure if this analogy really fits with suffering that people go through when loved ones are lost…but if God is right there, so very close would it make a difference in how we perceive the billows? I really like Susan’s comment on v.7. He has us, so we can relax and ride.

    I read a book about Richard Wurmbrand and the years of persecution he and his wife suffered in Romanian prisons for their faith. It was very difficult reading for he was tortured without mercy. There is one place in the book, and I wish I still had it, where he spoke of the presence of Christ overshadowing the pain. This was so powerful to me.

      1. What a wonderful quote.

      2. I watched the movie, “The Hiding Place”, about Corrie and Betsie in the Nazi prison camp. It is so powerful.

    1. Anne
      I have ‘Tortured for Christ’ and have not read it yet because I knew it would be a hard read. You have inspired me to take it up. I got my copy from Voice of the Martyrs.

      1. That’s where I got mine too. I get their emails also. Another good book about the persecuted church is a novel by Randy Alcorn called Safely Home. Also Heavenly Man which is not a novel.

  11. 4. His Billows Annie Johnson Flint

    Before I read an author’s work I like to read their bio and find out what ‘makes them tick’. Before this study, I had never heard of Annie Johnson Flint. What a treasure! I googled her and found on preceptaustin.org an abridged bio and eighty-three poems.
    I have read “His Billows’ a few times and I see that, without my ‘billows’, I would not be who I am today and I would not be participating in this online blog at this season of my life. The last sixteen years of my life have been the most painful but I would not trade them. They are the years in which God did mighty acts on my behalf. They are the years of ‘severe mercy’. They are the years I learned how to study His Word for myself. This season of my life will one day pass and it will be remembered as ‘the sweetest days with my Lord’. It’s been just me and the Trinity for 18 months now. I am thankful I listened to counsel to concentrate on healing before attempting to ‘live fully again’. (I hope that makes sense) I also see in the poem, now matter what season of life I am in, rainy/drought, abundance/need, health/sickness, my God is with me and will bring me through the season EVERY TIME!

    I read the following in a devotional this morning. I believe this is what Annie would have us see in ‘His Billows’.

    “Keep your focus on Christ instead of on your problems, or else you are going to sink just as surely as Peter sank when he walked on the water to Jesus”. (Warren Kniskern) In other words, Jesus wants us walking on our waves/billows toward Him. That’s what I see.

    God’s light surprised me yesterday. In Genesis 19:16 I found a picture of Christ.

  12. 1. How can waves and billows both drown and save you? The picture that comes to my mind is one of struggle vs surrender. Thinking of Noah, God gave him instructions as to how to survive the coming disaster. The instructions didn’t make sense. He was ridiculed by his neighbors for his folly. But he did not struggle with the waves and billows of all around him, he surrendered to God’s will and built the ark. When the literal waves and billows came pouring upon the earth, Noah, the surrendered, floated safely in God’s will. Likewise, God built our bodies to float. When we are in over our head, we can struggle and drown or surrender to our Creator’s creation and lean back and float. So our souls are built, too – to float in the will of God.

    2. How can the thing that is pulling you down be an instrument of salvation? This question brings to mind my drug addict son who was drowning in his addiction. The waves and billows of needing more and more drugs to feed his addiction was like the undertow of the ocean – deep calling to deep – pulling him into the crime of robbery to feed his habit. The robbery put him in prison. It saved his life. He is now “protected” for 5 years and seeking the Lord’s salvation. May his deep need call to the deep love of Jesus.

    3. Waves and breakers keep coming – as in vs 8 – waves of the Lord’s love by day, steady and predictable as the ocean waves – breakers of songs in the night, those bursts of insight that come to us when we are at rest and give up our control. This surf of life is our prayer to God and God’s prayer, God’s will, for us. Some days the ocean surf, like my life, is soft and gentle. And some days the ocean surf, like my life, is a raging storm. Yet, no matter the nature of the day, the surf continues, as the Lord’s love for me continues.

    1. Janet, you give such wonderful, wise insights. You bring up the point of predictability.
      Yes, waves and breakers, or pain, loss, grief, suffering, is predictable part of this life here on earth.
      Yet, the Lord’s love is also continual and predictable, as the high and low tide of the ocean day after day after day…..

  13. Deep calls to deep… this has always intrigued me. For me it is my deep pain calling to God’s deep help.
    I am pretty cautious when I comment, not to do so without the help of the Lord so that it will be His encouragement and not just mine. In waiting for his help I came across this to share:

    So for those of us who are called to endure, let us take heart and do so, by the grace of God. Not all are called to such an honor. Some are simply breathing to death, awaiting their burial in some vacant plot of land with a forgotten headstone. But others have been secured as a prize possession to suffer as their Savior did so that they may also reign as he does. Blessed be the name of the Lord, and blessed are the saints in the land, who by his sovereign hand have been called out of darkness into light so that they may shine brightly in the darkness and in the midst of great suffering and pain; they are the excellent ones in whom is all God’s delight. May we continue to persevere in the grace of God, to the praise of his magnificent name!

    Sister’s let us take heart in being called excellent ones!

  14. Kim T.
    Thank you for sharing those words of encouragement.Earlier this afternoon, I was reviewing some sermon notes from Feb. 2009. Here is what caught my attention:
    A trial/test is an inconvenience allowed by God to develop me so I’ll be LIGHT in the midst of a crooked/perverse generation. Be unhindered LIGHT. Puts me in situation that makes me SHINE forth. Creates a situation in which I must act in concert with Him in midst of darkness. Because when I do it’ll be clear I am different than enviroment in which I am located. (Dr.Tony Evans)

    I want to share with everyone that it is 68 degrees here in SE GA. I know it’s not here to stay because we are expecting another round of low’s in the high 20’s tomorrow night. The sun is shining bright and I have been outside picking up dead branches, raking leaves, and cutting dead vines off the fence. I have kept all of you in mind as I have enjoyed this ‘preview of the days of spring’. Winter is still here but spring is just around the corner. I had a preview yesterday of my ‘days of spring’. I awoke at 3:30 am with study on mind got up and spent time with the Lord beginning what would turn out to be an 18 hr day. I had what seemed to be a ‘full tank’ of energy. I enjoyed feeling like I use to. I had no trouble going to sleep when I crawled into bed at 9:30 pm. I wanted to stay up longer but I was like a child fighting sleep. When I awoke this morning I felt as if I had been ran over. It took me awhile to get going. As I began working outside that’s when it hit me that yesterday was a preview of the days to come. One day I will be back at life in full swing with boundless energy. It’s not time yet. I’m still healing.
    I receive a daily email from DivorceCare(Christian ministry which helps those affected by divorce). I learned from one particular email that when you suffer emotional trauma 85% of your energy is directed to emotions. That leaves 15% energy level to be divided between mental, physical, and spiritual. Experts say it may take up to 5 years to get your energy levels back to proper balance. I miss having the energy I once did but am thankful that it is slowly getting back to where it should be. Since my trauma occured when I was 45 I tell everybody I’ll be alright when I’m 50. Jubilee year.


    1. Tammy, Thank you for reminding me that 68 degrees is possible 🙂 I smiled just reading about working in the yard (and I imagine I’ll be very sore after I jump into working in the yard!)

      1. Renee is my middle name and I feel a kindred spirit with you. Do you know it is French and means reborn?
        Keep surrendering your grief to our Comforter. Last year @ this time I was being tossed about by the waves of grief. The days I could not even open the Word I played my DVD of Max McClean reading the Bible. I would lay on the bed and let God’s Word soothe me. Many a night I would go to sleep listening to the DVD and I found that when I did I had a restful night. If I didn’t stay focused on the Word my mind would be bombarded by terrible things. I kept running to God and facing each day even when I didn’t want to. God knew how hard certain days were going to be for me so He sent me company in the form of a poodle named Zach. His owners were going away on an overseas trip and asked me if I would take care of him. God sent Zach to give me a reason to get up out of bed each morning for 10 days. He knew those 10 days would be the time I would be pounded by the waves of grief and depression. I was reading an entry in my 2009 prayer journal just yesterday. I wrote “Feb 19 2009. In bed listening to Max McClean. Zach is laying beside me. It’s his last day with me. His job is done.” God always provides what we need even before we know we need it.

  15. I have been inspired by this study and “The God of All Comfort” to start keeping a prayer journal again. I hadn’t done this for a few years, unfortunately when I should have been doing it most, but I thank God & everyone here for helping me get back on track.

    Words don’t express how grateful I am for all of you and these comments in this particular time in my life.

  16. 2. Once again, I decided to read Psalm 42 before going to bed— this time, because I was anxious (and it’s convenient for me to grab my laptop and go to biblegateway.com). I automatically get “wound up” when I spend time with certain combinations of people, and this happened again today (avoidance isn’t always an option).

    Psalm 42: 5 and 11 (ESV) say “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

    The word “turmoil” describes the state of my soul for most of the afternoon and evening. The reason my soul was/is in turmoil is because (1) I was putting my hope in other people by being too concerned about what they might think of me (similar to what the psalmist expressed in vs 9 and 10), and (2) I was putting my hope in others who were in as much turmoil as I was because we could “look bad” together. But hoping in others has been contributing to the turmoil. I will always become anxious in the company of certain people if my main concern is to have them like me, especially if doing “right” is not what they want me to do.

    In this situation, these waves that return over and over (and wear me out) are finally driving me to the One I do want to please. And studying this psalm, experiencing the power of the word of God, is drawing me closer to Him. I really can see that I will hope in God and “shall again praise Him.”

    God’s faithfulness to me and gentleness to me was evident in that He allowed me to experience this situation today (a couple of hours ago, I viewed this VERY differently!). By going through this (troubling, but relatively minor) recurring situation today, I’m (just barely) starting to see that I can also trust Him in the face of more painful and significant loss (and even yesterday, I couldn’t begin to comprehend trusting Him with the grief I’m experiencing).