When you first meet the woman, you wouldn’t think she’s a woman who’s really rode out a tsunami.
I met Lauren in an island of stillness up in the hill country of Texas.
We sat out in the quiet of slanting sun. Lauren Chandler spoke with this steadying calm, like the clearing surface of reflective water.
Cancer had slammed her richter scale one unsuspecting morning, a tumor quaking her husband’s brain and their whole world.
She glanced down at the cup of coffee in her hands, “No one gives you any warning what day a wave’s going to slam into your whole world and everything you know is going to take a complete 180.”
She looked up and over at me.
And she handed me a number right there: 107.
A number I’ve remembered in crisis.
When everything takes a 180 — take the 107. Lauren turned to Psalm 107, like a woman who’d ridden out storms was turning this key.
Howard had got up one morning with absolutely no warning that a monster wave, taller than the Empire State Building, would literally slam into him and his boy.
He and his eight-year-old son “Sonny” had anchored on the south side of Lituya Bay in Alaska in a place called —- “Anchorage Cove.”
“Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters…” Ps. 107:23
Howard had said: “All was smooth. It was a quiet and peaceful anchorage.” There can be unwavering peace today when an uncertain tomorrow is trusted to an unchanging God.
With no notice, Howard’s boat, Howard’s boy, the bay, the circling mountains, the earth shook with one violent 7.8 earthquake — and forty million cubic yards of rock, ice and coarse soil weighing ninety million tons, slammed into the drowsy bay. Fifty miles to the north, people stopped dead in their tracks, the explosion thrumming inner ear drums.
Howard stood dazed on the deck of his boat: “Out of the corner of my eye, there was an explosion of water sending up a splash seventeen hundred feet high —- and then the wave started coming.”
“For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.” Ps. 107:25
“It was a wall of water, straight up and down, about two hundred feet tall, and it was black — totally black from the soil and trees.” You could see the shadows of the terror of it flash across Howard’s memories. “That whole wave was traveling about seventy miles per hour — but it was strangely silent.”
I’ve known that before — the strange silence of the encroaching crisis.
I’ve known that too:
The silence of God you hear in the midst of storms — can be the deep intimacy of God falling all around you, an intimacy that is beyond words — that will carry you through and beyond this storm.
“It was snapping these spruce trees along the side of the bay.” Howard had shifted his coffee mug, pointed to the treed shore rising up from the bay.
“They were big spruce trees, probably four hundred years old, and it was hitting them so hard, it was cutting them off at the stump.”
Lauren had said that her husband had just buckled and collapsed that morning, that cancerous tumour sending out seizure shockwave after wave.
“I was looking at death — that was exactly my first thought. I didn’t think we had a chance —“ Howard’s voice cracked. “There was no way my boat was going to make it over that wave.”
Howard, eyeing the all-consuming wall of towering black water bearing down, threw his son a life preserver, and said, “Son — start praying.”
In every storm — Your Father gives you a life preserver — and it is always His Son.
In the face of every rising wave overwhelming you — it’s always turning to God’s face that overwhelms you with a rising grace.
In every great crisis – let it bring out the greatness of Christ in you. Real prayer always has eyes on Christ, not the crisis.
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble…” Ps. 107:28
Lauren told me she held unto the anchor she found in Psalm 107 — Psalm 107 that speaks of 4 different kinds of people crying out:
“Some wandered and were homeless.” Who isn’t seeking a Home in a thousand lost and weary ways?
“Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains …” Who isn’t seeking a Hero to rescue from a dark suffering and save and literally set us free?
“Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.” Who isn’t seeking a Healer for hidden wounds?
“Others went out on the sea in ships … their courage melted away…” Who isn’t seeking a Hand to hold on to in the midst of the pounding waves and the ravenous storm and the frothing, drowning sea?
And it’s Psalm 107’s Home-seekers and Hero-seekers and Healer-seekers and Hand-Seekers —- who find everything they seek in Him — Jesus — because Jesus is everything.
Every single one, in spite of different stories and different storms, all simply cried: “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble.”
The way the children of God get the unwavering, steadfast love they need in their life — is to cry out for it.
Never be afraid of crying — tears deliver a singular kind of deliverance. Those who genuinely cry out — genuinely feel His steadfast love come in.
Because the only condition for the steadfast love of God — is that you realize can’t meet any of the conditions. “All you need is need” (Tim Keller) — all you need is to cry out.
“Then they cried to the Lord…”
And it happens, just like Lauren puts it memorably like this: “Sometimes He wrings the worship from our hearts.”
Child — start praying.
Feel the preserving encircling of Christ around you and start praying and praising and thanking and worshipping. Stand in the rising, twisting storm — and let Him gently wring an unforgettable worship from our hearts.
Howard had showed us with the twisting of his hands, how it happened right in the face of the looming wave: “I had 40 fathoms of anchor chain, and it started running out — running off the boat, came to the end — and just snapped it like a string.”
Sometimes what we’re holding onto isn’t really an anchor for our soul — but an idol for our destruction.
Sometimes when it feels like God’s breaking our anchor — He’s really breaking our idols —- what we were holding on to more than we were holding on to Him.Sometimes God allows all our anchors to break —- so we know the only unbreakable anchor we have is Him.
“When the wave hit the boat, it shot us upward —- skyward,” Howard turned.
“It all drove me further up into God,” Lauren had turned toward me.
And that tsunami wave struck Howard’s boat, struck the shore, that wave sweeping trees off a hillside at a incomprehensible height of more than 1,720 feet.
“The engine was wide open trying to get up that wave. And then it was on us,” Howard nods toward Sonny as he recounts how the largest tsunami every recorded in modern times lifted him and his boy.
“They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage tmelted away in their evil plight…” Ps. 107:26
“It snapped the anchor, and the chain whipped around and hit the pilothouse door. It carried us a hundred feet up, but we couldn’t see anything but water and trees. We swept up in the wave over land, up over the trees. We rode the wave as it swept us above the trees. It was pushing us backward, and I was sure it was going to break and swamp us. Then the wave was breaking. It was breaking around us, on either side, but not quite where the boat was…. “ Howard choked up.
When you feel like the pounding waves of everything might break you — look for how He’s using everything to break the wave.
“And somehow” Howard shifted, stood up straighter, his eyes smiling a relief of thanksgiving, after riding that tsunami wave that roared higher than the Empire State building.— “Somehow we got on top of it and to the other side” —
Yes, that, that: When you don’t know how to get out the other side of the wave of crisis—- keep pressing into Christ’s side.
“… and He delivered them from their distress…
He sent out His word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and He brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love…
Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD.” Ps. 107
Wisdom isn’t a function of considering great amounts of knowledge —
it’s the wise who continually consider the great, steadfast love of God.
The only way you can keep standing through the waves— is that you know His steadfast love through His Word.
“Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love,
for His wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of His deeds in songs of joy!” Ps. 107
In the face of extreme difficulties and extreme diversity, every single one of His-seekers all receive the same extreme, steadfast love — and every single one of us are called to give the extreme sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving isn’t only a celebration when good things happen —- thanksgiving is a declaration that God is good no matter what happens. No matter what earthquake hits, no matter what waves loom, no matter what tsunami hit on some unsuspecting day.
Because one day we’re all guaranteed to wake up and it will feel like all our anchors of this world have broke.
But there’s this oceanic love all reflecting Christ —- and, like Christ’s most troubled outward life, there can be this feeling beaten and battered by the crashing waves breaking over you —- but there can be interior life that’s a sea of glass —- so Christ alone is seen.
There can be storms but He didn’t calm only one storm, He can calm all your storms.
And the One who controls the storms, controls your ship.
The One who watches over the storm around you, makes peace within you.
The One who calms the storms, sometimes let the storms swirl and calms our fears.
And there can be great calm of His steadfast love that washes over every willing and surrendered soul.
When Lauren Chandler first told me of Psalm 107 steadying her through her tsunami — I couldn’t have imagined her book about that journey, Steadfast Love, would land in here the very day that a little wave hit us here a bit. Only the timing of God.
Lauren had asked me to write the forward to Steadfast Love — and this past week, found me holding on to the truth of these pages like a lifeline. Lauren’s husband, Matt Chandler, serves as the lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas, and the Lord has taken Matt and Lauren on a challenging journey with the November 2009 discovery of a malignant brain tumor in Matt. Need an anchor for this year and the waves that have hit and will hit? Highest recommendation of Steadfast Love.