Deep beneath the surface of the ocean there are places that are nothing but pure darkness. If someone could withstand the pressure and travel down until those depths, they wouldn’t be able to see their own hand in front of their face, nor the nightmarish fish swimming straight for it.
To anyone who has seen Finding Nemo, we know of one particular fish that lives there: the anglerfish. But we’ll get to her in a minute. (Yes, it is a she we picture; no, I didn’t select the gender because ‘girls rule and boys drool’.) The thing is being in these depths can be terrifying. You never know when something is coming for you whether it be friend or foe. And what was that smooth thing you just brushed up against while swimming: a fellow scuba diver or a frilled shark? Is it safe to ‘just keep swimming’ or should we wait for help to pull us out of the darkness?
One of the problems some of us Christians face is we forget water is apart of our journey. I know in a previous post I talked about walking through a foggy dark forest and leaning on Jesus to be our guide. Yet, in our journey there are moments when the path He is leading us down through this forest is broken off because a body of water lies ahead. Jesus promises help us across if we focus solely on Him, but the moment we turn our focus from Him and allow doubt to creep in, we begin to sink, just like Peter did.
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”Matthew 14:25-31
There are two causes of our doubt: the devil and our flesh. The wind hollowing around Peter could represent the devil whispering in our ear that we’ll never make it across, we’re not strong enough, Jesus doesn’t actually love us for it is only an illusion. If we listen to these lies doubt will arise and the devil knows he has you right where he wants you. He is victorious in this small battle because his aim is to torture us and inadvertently torture Jesus, because our Lord’s heart breaks when He sees us suffering.
The other doubt-causer, our flesh, is when we look down into the depths of the water below. We take our eyes off the light of Jesus and stare into the negative space hiding behind the shimmering surface. In those depths we see our past; the pain from the bullying we endure as a child, the cut of sharp malevolent words, the disappointment and heartbreak when someone had let us down, our depression, our struggles. The dark depths below hold the things that tortured us and the shame we knew for the sins we had. Staring at all this or listening to the wind of the devil will pull us down into the darkness. And if we continue to allow it, that darkness will consume us.
Yet, Christ stands nearby, ready to catch us. He doesn’t automatically save us. No, because He knows if He does we won’t learn the lesson to be had. If we don’t learn, then two steps more across the body of water and we’ll begin to sink again. However, if we learn the lesson clearly enough and hold on to what we’re taught, we can make it clearly across to the other side without sinking a second time. Thus, Jesus waits until we cry out to Him.
Essentially, it’s a mental thing, a testing of willpower, to cross the water with Jesus at our side. If we recognize the temptations that are headed our way as we cross the water, we can block out the devil’s words and listen solely to the words of Jesus. When the devil says we won’t make it across because we aren’t strong enough, Jesus says we will make it across because He is strong enough for the both of us. When the devil says our belief that Jesus loves us is an illusion, Jesus proclaims that it isn’t, for if His love for us were not true He wouldn’t have died for us. When the devil tells us we’re ugly, Jesus tells us we’re beautiful. When the devil tells us we are a lost cause and cannot be saved, Jesus says there are no lost causes for He came to save all.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”John 3:16-17
Life in this dark world gets rough sometimes. The devil and our flesh are constantly warring against us, trying to drag us down into those deep dark depths of despair and misery. However, we always have a choice, every day, to either focus on the darkness or focus on Jesus. Friends, I encourage you each and every day to start things off right. The moment you awaken, head straight into a daily quiet time with God. When we begin the day reading scripture or praying with God, we set ourselves up better to focus on Him and what beautiful blessings He has planned for us that day rather than if we immediately went to breakfast having never met with Him before facing the darkness outside our door.
However, if you don’t know Christ in your heart, I encourage you to do so now before it’s too late. Prayer is a conversation with our Creator, our King. So, if you are unsure of what to do, simply call out to Him and say, “God, I am a sinner. I know I’ve made mistakes, but I believe you died for me. I want to know you more, Lord Jesus, so please come into my heart. Jesus, you are my Lord and my Savior. Please, forgive me”. Find a Bible-believing church that speaks only the truth of God to be your spiritual home and find rest amongst your new spiritual family. Never forget, God loves you more than any of us will ever know.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’.”Romans 10:9-13
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” “We love because he first loved us.”1 John 4:16 & 19
I bet you thought I forgot about the anglerfish. (To be honest, I did until I went to edit.) There are days when we fall into the depths and linger, not seeing any harm in lingering there nor having the desire to look up towards the light and cry out for our Lord to help us. These are the days when we — myself included — are wallowing in our own misery or having a pity party. While in some cases this is ok because we need to identify wounds that are still open so we can work with Jesus to heal them, there are times where we linger too long. If we do so, we cause the wound to worsen, to be so fresh in our minds the wound throbs for days, making our week miserable.
We must be on alert, though, when we have these days, and not just because of the harmful effects of lingering in darkness. Because, eventually, while we’re down there we may spot another light. It isn’t as bright and joyful as the light of our King, but it is still a light and it appears to bring happiness. In actuality, this new light is a trap. Attached to that light is an ugly creature.
The anglerfish, if we recall our Nemo facts, has a light on the end of an antennae that draws other fish to it. These other fish are lost in the darkness and are swimming around, trying to find a light of hope. Thus, when they see this light in the darkness, though dim, they swim to it only to see a nightmarish face before they are eaten. (Fun little fact: the anglerfish we always picture when discussing this species is female. The males can be mistaken for baby fish.)
Spiritually speaking, this dim new light we spot while lingering in the darkness is the devil’s attempt to lead you away from Jesus’s light and rob you of your hope. He lures you away with empty promises of wealth, power, love that turns out to be false, that every fleshy desire of ours will bring permanent happiness, and so on. If we follow his light and believe in his promises, we’ll experience new ruins and new miseries. Eventually, when we get too close, he will destroy us. So, be watchful, my friends, the devil has many schemes, but God’s ways are pure and loving.
“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”2 Corinthians 11:14
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”John 10:10