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  • Writer's pictureMary Nolte

Deep Waters


It was not by choice that my husband and I first turned down an unknown path into the creek on our ranch, exploring the swelling caused by a massive rainstorm. 

Indeed, it was out of necessity that we traversed that creek the first time, four wheelers sunk deep in the flood caused by an epic storm, the biggest storm in more than 30 years, so we were told by those who had lived there for long enough to know such things. So we had turned, rather fearfully, into those deep waters to check the water gap and make sure it held so that the cows could not escape onto the neighboring land. The storm had come, as storms do, unsuspected and unrelenting and more violent than anyone had foreseen, and the tame creek had swelled from a steady stream to a gushing river and become something more wild and beautiful, a tranquil flow that had turned tumultuous in the wake of the downpour. 

There were new rapids and new waterfalls, and low hanging trees, barely clinging to the bank with gnarled, exposed roots. The sheer force of the storm had washed away unwanted debris, leaving refreshing pools, whose clear waters made visible the rock foundation beneath. The creek had widened under the press of the storm, growing and deepening as the flood grew and the water deepened. We were engulfed in unseen wonder, and though compelled to enter, we now eagerly pressed forward, deeper into its unknown waters, further into its uncharted course. We were mesmerized by its power, surrounded by its tranquility. There were a million other things to do, but neither of us wanted to do them. We wanted to stay here, immersed in the mystery that the storm had unveiled. 

And I kept thinking it was the same creek, the creek I knew, and yet it was more somehow.

It was still the creek I had often viewed from the bank above, serene and dependable, slowly moving soil, steadily carrying away fallen leaves. I had listened to its trickling falls and picnicked along its grassy bank. I had seen its rock bottom through its clear waters. Sitting along the edge, I had gratefully observed it, knowing it would always flow in the same direction. I could follow it and know where I’d end up. It was beautiful and real, a tangible thing to give me my bearings. But I had never been in it, completely surrounded by serene refreshment, held captive by never failing beauty. Experiencing it from the safety of its banks had been enough for me. 

Until the storm came. And we had plunged ahead because the storm demanded it.

For so often we do not choose the paths we must take. So often we find ourselves in deep waters because a storm has taken us there, because there is something in the midst of those unknown waters that we need to see. We may have put this journey off for years had it not been for the storm, for we were content to simply know the creek from its banks and enjoy its beauty from a comfortable distance. But as Jesus was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Mt. 4:1), God sometimes has to lead us to places we may not otherwise have gone, for purposes we do not always see. 

I think it is the reason God allows storms of suffering, so we will look more deeply at who we thought God was and discover He is so much more.

For as storm after storm assailed me, looking at God from the bank was no longer enough. I had to know if he was deep enough to take my headlong plunge into agony and doubt. I had to know if he was strong enough to keep me afloat. I had to know if his goodness was enough to carry me. But I had to get to a place of desperation to discover those depths, a place where human knowledge had failed me, and I was begging the Holy Spirit to reveal what I couldn’t understand. I had to be led into that flooded creek bed, driven by grief and pain and heartache. 

And as the storm grew, my Savior grew to encompass it. As sorrow deepened, his mercy deepened to engulf it. 

I would have never discovered those depths had I not been led down a path not of my own choosing, for going deeper is not without its errors or its pain. But when unrelenting grief floods our lives, it drives us to turn into the deeper things of God; when unsuspected sorrows rain down upon us, we explore places others dare not go, asking questions others dare not ask. But in the midst of it, we find ourselves beholding a beauty others do not see. 

We arrive in a place of grief and find it filled with the God of comfort. 

For he has traversed the path before us, with weary footsteps, walking the road to calvary, laden with a heavy load of all the sin of all the world for all eternity. Though the pain we encounter in life takes us down a road unknown to us, it is not unknown to Christ. It is why, I believe, Paul could pray, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10).  For Paul knew when he arrived at a place of suffering, there would be One there before him, One who holds the future in his hands. For the storms of this life are custom made, wielded by a loving Father, and unknown paths are tailored for us, carved by a sovereign hand (Jn. 21:20-22).

Paul knew that the fellowship he would enjoy with the Suffering Servant would be worth the loneliness that had driven him there, for suffering is often a lonely place. He knew that communion with the Comforter would be worth the pain.

As followers of Christ, we will all be led down our own paths to deep waters, but we can know, as we gaze into that unknown, it is filled with wonder. Our creek goes from deep to shallow, from rapids to meandering water, over and over again. On a recent trip, we turned down a path that was not navigable and had to back out gingerly, realizing we had gone beyond our human ability. When exploring the God who is, we will all find ourselves looking into a greatness that is far beyond our scope of understanding (Job 42:3). You must frequently put your boots up, for it is neither comfortable nor safe. For God is not a “tame lion.” You will at times stand in awe and at others kneel, trembling. And this is a comforting thing. 

For when life plunges you into a pain that is deeper than you ever imagined, you want to find a God whose volume is great enough to contain it. In the words of Corrie Ten Boom, “There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still.” 

As Job discovered when, with tear-stained face, he peered into the heart of God, that all he could see were the “mere edges of His ways," but it was enough for a soul pressed low by sorrow. On the other side of deep waters is a beauty and calmness not seen by the casual passerby as hundred year old trees spread majestic branches against a clear sky, as the “whisper” we heard of God becomes a powerful “thunder” in the wake of our grief,  when we draw near to the One who draws near to us in our sorrow  (Job 26:14). 

I may awake in the morning to a sky red with the threat of an impending storm, but I will know that in its wake, the creek will be there, both the same and more than it was before, wide enough to engulf the volume of it, deep enough to contain the whole of it. Those waters will clear unwanted debris, expose new delights, and surround me with ethereal beauty. 

So, I’ll get my boots wet. I may have to backpedal a few times. But the journey will be worth it. 

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1 Comment

Mar 13

Love this. Very well written.

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