Only The Ship Will Sink

Story by Holly Poole

On August 8, 2016 I bought a journal. 

I was choosing this specific journal before a missions trip to New York where I knew I would be filling the pages quickly. Peyton, my fiancé, was with me and holding up different ones and urging me to make a choice because we were in a hurry. I picked out a burlap journal with a gold anchor on it. At the time, there was something about anchors that I had a certain affinity for. I remember explaining my choice to Peyton saying, “I don't know what they mean, yet. But, I know it’s important to me right now.”

It was so frustrating to listen to their problems and not have a solution. 

A few days later, many parts of Louisiana went under water in a historical, catastrophic flood. At the time, I was in upstate New York with about 50 kids from Jersey City, NJ that were underwater in another way. There, I understood the anchor that is my God and the waters that are powerless in comparison to Him. As I listened to these children’s stories of poverty, abuse, and neglect, I saw that their flood had been slow and steady waters. There had been no rescue teams. They had their God and the limited resources of their local church to which they were reluctant to lend their trust. It was so frustrating to listen to their problems and not have a solution. 

The hardest thing to do is look at someone in the eye that is neck-deep in their own flood and tell them that God is in the midst of the storm. Still, you say it and then you wince because you know that it sounds ridiculous. But, it’s true! I believe with full confidence that He is in the storm, so how do you explain that? How do you tell someone that feels underwater that God is with them in midst of it? 

Sometimes, the ship sinks. 

I am reminded of a story in Acts 27. Paul was a prisoner of the Romans and was sent with many other prisoners to Italy in a ship. During their voyage, Paul declared that there would be trouble if the ship went on, but they went on anyway. The storm came and everyone feared for their lives because they could not control the ship. Paul tells them to take courage, they will not lose their lives. Though they may lose their cargo and they will be shipwrecked—still, only the ship will sink. 

This phrase, “only the ship will sink” has gone over and over in my head. The reason became clear to me while I watched the flood waters rise in Louisiana all the while trying to asses the high-waters in New York/New Jersey. I needed to know that I can't save every ship from sinking. I couldn’t fix everything—or maybe, anything at all. I couldn't save every little girl from abuse and neglect. I couldn't prevent anyone of these children from going forward into troubled waters ahead. At the same time, I couldn't save anyone from the flood waters in Louisiana, especially from 1,300 miles away. Sometimes, the ship sinks. 

I had to say—“I don’t have the answers, I can’t save you from this.”

So, then, I had to look into the eyes of two young girls, both living in a mess that someone else created, and I had to say—“I don’t have the answers, I can’t save you from this.” It was painful to say, but God was speaking to me in this moment. He was asking me, “if you believe that I am your rescuer, provider, strength and peace throughout trials—why are you looking for a practical solution to your needs and the needs of others?” 

I was trying to calm a storm and I realized then how crazy that is. Of course I don't have a solution, because I am not God. If I had the solution, there would be no need for Him. I re-directed my thinking and began simply celebrated the attributes of God, reassuring the girls of His goodness—and they understood. Here, in this moment, I learned to love the storm because in the end, He is the only one that can calm it. He is the only peace in this world. In the end, all of the glory belongs to Him.

Yes, the ship may sink, I will never belittle that loss, but, so much greater is the knowledge that God is our provider and strength.