“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life when the clouds unfold their wings of strife? When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain, will your anchor drift or firm remain? We have an anchor that keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll; fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.”
These words are from the timeless hymn ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?’ It was written more than 100 years ago by Priscilla Jane Owens and the music was composed by William James Kirkpatrick, who passed away exactly 100 years ago this year. Although the hymn is aged, the message in it is nonetheless contemporary. The hymn refers to the challenges of life and at the same time to the assurance we have in Jesus –the anchor of our faith– during these challenges.
The question encompassed in the hymn is, “do you give in the storms of life?”. Yes, I know it is very tempting to give up when life is ‘beating’ you. It is also the easiest thing to do; to just give up and wallow in self-pity. But is that what God wants you to do? Or does He have different plans for you during your storm and for your life after the storm?
Storms of life have a way to bring out what is in you: fear or faith. To which of these two do you give in to during your storm, to which of the two do you hold on to? And how do you behave while the storm rages? Will you wallow in self-pity, or will you reach out to the anchor of your faith, Jesus?
Wallow in self-pity
When you wallow in self-pity, you seem to enjoy being sad and feeling defeated, especially because you get sympathy from other people. Through self-pity you can gain attention from others and yourself. If you do not take care, you will end up feeling sorry for yourself all the time. When something goes wrong, you would rather sit down and remain in the shattered pieces of your life, instead of getting up, cleaning up, and rebuilding your life.
Wallowing in self-pity halts the creativity in you and it stagnates your progression in life. And regularly feeling sorry for yourself over a long period of time can even lead to depression. And it may also lead to physical health issues. All the more reason to stop doing it and rather to look for a solution to your problem.
And what about God? Does He agree with your self-pity? Does He look at you and feel pity as well, or does He look at you with different eyes? What does God see when He looks at you? Well, He sees your future and not your present. He sees the plans He has for you. And they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). What else do you want? What else do you need when you are in trouble than knowing that God has got you. Knowing that God has a future for you. A good future.
God holds your future, therefore do not give up. Having a future implicitly means that your current storm will end one time or the other. It will not last forever. Why then would you pay so much attention to it?
Why don’t you lift your eyes from your problems and look up at your creator? Look to an almighty God who created everything which has been created (Colossians 1:16). And trust Him with your life. He truly is your anchor. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and holding onto your fear, you can make the choice to let go and reach out to Jesus, the anchor of your soul.
Jesus, the anchor of your soul in the storms of life
Billows are great waves; they rise and move in large mass. Imagine that you are in a rough sea with dark clouds and heavy rain falling. There are dumping waves all around you, breaking with tremendous force and subsequently throwing you to the bottom. As a result, these rolling waves engulf you totally. That is what happens when your life is in ‘rough weather’. Calamities occur all around you, shaking your life totally. You feel like you are being thrown to the bottom in darkness, without being able to get up again. It makes you feel hopeless. If you do not take care, you would allow the ‘billows’ to take control over your life, resulting in you losing sight of a way out.
When you are in a situation like that, no one will deny that you are in trouble. You yourself do not have to deny that neither. Having faith is not the same as denying that your situation is bad. Faith is declaring the good news of God’s word in your bad situation and holding on to Jesus.
The hymn does the same. Yes, of a truth, the hymn describes the challenges of life, which are inevitable. But at the same time, it refers to the assurance we have in Jesus, the anchor of our faith. The hymn addresses both the storms of life and our attitude in the storm.
When you are in a crisis and are being tossed up and down by strong waves, to which of the two do you pay attention? To the billows or to the anchor? The choice is yours to make. And the choice you make will determine the outcome of the storm: whether it will throw you down completely or whether you are going to come out victoriously.
When you focus on the storms
Focusing on the storm will lead you into disaster, it will paralyze you. Causing you not to take any step to get out of it but rather to be stagnant in life.
One time when I was young, I got entangled in a riptide while swimming in the ocean. The riptide, being a powerful current caused by the tide pulling water strongly toward the ocean, gripped me and powerfully pulled me deeper and deeper into the ocean. I literally panicked. Through my love for swimming, especially in the sea, I had developed great skills to flexibly move around in high waves. I really knew what to do when swimming. However, when this riptide gripped me, all at once I did not know how to swim anymore. It made me completely forget how to swim. I experienced what panicking can do: it literally paralyzes you. I had to calm down and tell myself that I knew how to swim. That is what saved me. It was difficult, but I was able to swim back to the shore through the rip current.
Think also of Peter who walked on water but started sinking immediately when he looked around at the strong wind and the waves (Matthew 14:29-30). He became terrified at once and began to sink. But why could He walk on water in the first place? Because He initially kept His eyes on Jesus. It was only when he moved his focus from Jesus to the sea, that he started sinking. The good news is that immediately when he shouted, “Save me, Lord!”, Jesus reached out and grabbed him (Matthew 14:31).
Even when you initially focus on the billows around you, that is not the end; you can still redirect your focus and look at Jesus, the anchor of your faith.
When you focus on the anchor
An anchor is a source of security or stability. An anchor makes you stay in one position by fastening you firmly. Every ship has an anchor that can be dropped to the sea bottom to stay secure in place; it can be thrown into the sea at a time of need. You can do the same when the storms of life threaten your whole existence. Instead of panicking and looking at the high waves, you can look for the anchor and throw it into the situation in order to be secure and stable.
As a Christian you have the strongest anchor that exists: Jesus. Jesus is your hope and anchor who will keep you in the midst of the storms. No matter how severe the storm is. Why? Because no billow can ever move Jesus. Therefore, He is the only one to go to when you are in trouble, he is the only one who can really keep you safe, He is the only one who can lead you through your storm. Jesus can keep you steadfast and unmovable in spite of the tides of life. Hebrews 6:19 (NLT) declares:
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil”
So, when the storms of life hit you, reach out to your anchor, use it, and wait patiently till the storm is over. Do not panic but keep your eyes on Jesus. It is then that the next verse of the hymn becomes a reality: “It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand, for ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand; And the cables passed from His heart to mine, can defy the blast, through strength divine”.
Do not give up while the billows roll
So instead of panicking, what should you do? Do not give up. Hold on to Jesus, hold on to your faith. That is what you should do. I know this is easier said than done, but I also know it is possible to do. Why? Because you have an all-powerful God for whom nothing is impossible. And He has given you the strength to do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). He will provide you with the strength needed to withstand the billows and to come out of the storm victoriously.
When you are able to hold on to your faith, to Jesus your anchor, you will experience the reality of the last two verses of the hymn:
“It will firmly hold in the straits of fear, when the breakers have told the reef is near; though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow, not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.”
“It will surely hold in the floods of death, when the waters cold chill our latest breath; on the rising tide it can never fail, while our hopes abide within the veil”.
Reason for not giving up in the storms of life
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT).
This is true faith. Seeing the waves and acknowledging that you are ‘dying’, but not leaving it at that, through comparing your present troubles to the eternal glory of being with Jesus forever. Keeping your eyes on the hope of a life after this present life, will keep you going. Your life here on earth is just a twinkle of an eye compared to your life in eternity. So, hold on. And know that you do not have to do it alone. Jesus is there for you. He holds you tight. He ensures that the waves will not overflow you nor the storm drown you. Your storm will soon be over.
Hope in the storms of life
Therefore, Jesus is your only hope and you can rest assured that He will not let you down. He is the hope that will get you through your storm. You can shout with the Psalmist: “O Lord, you alone are my hope. I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood” (Psalm 71:5; NLT). Proclaim your faith in Him. Instead of sitting down and doing nothing than looking at the storm and feeling sorry for yourself, you can get up, address the situation, and pronounce the word of God over the storm and over your life. By proclaiming the verse in Psalm 71 aloud, you speak directly to your spirit and your soul. Subsequently, you encourage yourself during any threatening situation. It will lift you up and enable you to see the end of the storm. Hold on to your faith. Do not give up. The end is near!
If you find yourself in high rolling billows right now, I pray with Paul:
“that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”Romans 15:13 (NLT).
May God provide you with the needed strength to hold on and open your eyes to see Jesus in your pressing situation. May you reach out to your anchor and use it to get out of this storm safely. Amen.
Let us pray:
Thank You Lord that I can say “it is well with my soul”, no matter the situation I find myself in. Whether I caused it myself or it happened to me. I know that the billows will not pull me down, even if the waves are ten times higher than me. Yes, I am frightened by what is happening, but I will not give up. I will hold on to You, my anchor. I know that You will save me, even if everything looks lost. Forgive me for initially focusing on the storm and everything around me, instead of lifting my eyes up to You, my only safety. I am sorry.
Now I choose to focus on You and declare that You are my only hope. I fasten myself firmly to You and know that I will survive this storm triumphantly. Thank You Lord for my deliverance. Thank you for leading me through this storm and bringing me to the expected end. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
©copyright 2021; Christel Owoo
Photo by Axel Antas-Bergkvist on Unsplash