This past December I went to Mexico with my Mom and my sisters. We spent a lot of time just laying on the beach and soaking up the sun, watching the waves endlessly roll in and crash on the beach, while brave souls played in the surf. (I’m terrified of the ocean, so I kept a safe distance of course).
Now, I’m no expert on the ocean or anything involved in managing those potentially perilous waters, but I spent some time observing the people who seemed to know what they were doing out there. When a wave would come crashing in, these people would face it, and as it got closer they jumped into the wave; and each time, they would be left standing once the wave passed. Every once in a while someone would be caught off guard, and an unexpected wave would knock them down. Other times someone would be intimidated by the sheer size of the wave coming at them and try to run away from it, only to be quickly overtaken.
Life can be a lot like the treacherous ocean waters, sending trials like waves crashing down on us. It is a simple fact of life in a fallen world; pain and difficulty are inescapable. Illness, death, heartbreak, broken dreams, failure and pain are realities for everyone.
A few months ago, during a chapel service at my school, I heard an excellent sermon on the book of Job. For those who may be unfamiliar with the Bible, the book of Job tells the story of a man who was absolutely wrecked by the waves of life, and lost everything in a short period of time; his children, his wealth, and his health… a series of devastating events that most could barely imagine. The message of the sermon was simple; A wreck is coming… What will you do when it happens? The waves of life are unavoidable, and while we may not choose them, we can choose how we will face them.
On a whole, we live in a culture of avoidance. Statistics show that over 20 million Americans struggle with addiction, with alcohol being one of the most commonly abused substances. I’m not an addictions expert, so I can only speak from what I have experienced… and what I have experienced has taught me that we run to our addictions – whether it be alcohol, drugs, food, television, or any number of things – out of a desperate attempt to temporarily escape the inevitable pain and difficulty of life.
When the waves of life came crashing down on me, I turned to alcohol… an addiction that I battled for the better part of 3 years. Each morning I would promise myself that I wouldn’t drink again, and each night I would be overcome by the waves of emotions that were flooding over me, demanding that I find a way to escape. It was an addiction fueled by fear, and it left me tossed about by the waves, not sure which was was up.
With all that being said… Today is a special day for me. Today I celebrate 2 years (730 days) of being sober!
Sobriety is about more than just having the discipline to turn down that glass of wine or the whiskey nightcap… It’s not really about the alcohol at all, it’s so much more than that.
- Standing my ground when it would be easier to crumble.
- Seeking comfort and hope in God, instead of in a bottle.
- Facing my problems head on, instead of running away.
- Letting myself feel, letting myself cry, and trusting God with my pain.
- Learning to see trial and hardship as fertile soil for growth, not something to escape.
You see, my 2 years of sobriety isn’t as much about what I have abstained from, but what I have engaged in.
It’s the months of counseling, the ink filled pages of my journals, and the tears spilled on my pillow. It’s a life lived, in all of its beauty and pain, instead of numbed or escaped. It’s jumping into the waves and finding that, by the grace of God, I am left standing on the other side.
Standing in the waves of life is no easy thing, it’s a daily choice to press in when you would rather run away. It’s letting the waves of pain wash over you, and trusting God to sustain you. The waves of life are relentless, but so is the love and grace of God. It is in His strength that we can stand, even when everything comes crashing down around us.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV)