What to do When the Boat is Sinking | Thoughts on Honesty, Control, and Letting Go

You’re in the middle of the ocean.

You’re the only person on the boat.

And, the boat is sinking.



This is my greatest fear—complete isolation in the middle of the ocean. Yet I have purposefully been visualizing this fear.

While some may see it as unnecessary or unproductive to emotionally assume your greatest fear, I have found it empowering. By placing myself in this scenario and choosing to feel the emotion, it has helped me realize that I have held on to far too many sinking ships in my life.

Stop Idolizing the Boat

At the foundation of every human heart is the search for a savior. This is precisely why we champion certain things while demonizing others. We build vessels for ourselves—temporary boats that become our hope in rough seas. The problem is, these “boats” become part of our identity—our faux saviors. This is the very definition of idolatry.

But unless we’re willing to expose our idols, we will never overcome them or be free from them.

If you’re looking for a quick way to uncover your idols, they’re the things you’re most likely to defend. If you’re still having a hard time pinpointing them, ask yourself what you’re most afraid of losing. You never know how much you trust in something until it’s gone.

Too often, we believe that it is noble to go down with the ship—that we’ll be remembered as brave for drowning in honor. Friends, that’s not bravery, it’s pride. It’s kind of like the rich man who jumps off of a building because he thinks he’s lost everything. The truth is, he hasn’t lost everything. He just lost his money in the stock market. But, money was his everything.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’ve spent far too much time placing my hope in things that can’t save me. I’ve sought deliverance in my income, my spouse, my kids, my religion, people, and my own ability.

Sure, I overtly followed God, but I covertly coordinated my own rescue.

Searching for a Savior

In my life, I identified these three key areas of surrender. I’m challenging you to come up with your own.

1. I seek entertainment as an escape from reality

From college football to craft beer to Netflix bingeing, my desire for entertainment is often rooted in escaping reality. Entertainment is meant to be entertainment. When it becomes a balm to soothe the pain, it’s temporary relief at best. What I want is peace. When entertainment becomes obsessive, when I justify it, and when I neglect higher priorities to enjoy it, I’m worshiping it. That robs me of peace.

From here forward, I will not let a short-term buzz become a bad hangover laced with regret.

2. I place people on the throne that belongs to God

Whether it’s my spouse or my kids or my pastor or my boss or the latest best seller, I place far too much hope in people. For years, I looked to others to bring me the affirmation that can only come from God. In addition, I elevated certain people based on their platform and I positioned myself to benefit from what they might give me. No man (or woman) can be the provision that is promised by my Creator. I am free to love people, but I will not worship them.

The opinions of others will no longer control me.

3. I hope in my own effort to save me.

This was the sneakiest idol of all. Maybe I read The Little Engine That Could too much as a child, or maybe I’ve listened to the banter of a crowd who shouts, “Keep going!” Either way, I have quietly placed too much confidence in my ability to get things done. Words like persistence and diligence are words to live by, but they are worthless without peace.

The weight of my circumstances don’t rest on my ability to change them. The weights of my circumstances rests on the shoulders of One who promised to bear them.

So What About the Boat?

There are those who won’t be able to get past the fact that the boat is sinking. But there will come a moment when the boat is out of sight and you’re alone treading water. At that point, the boat won’t matter.

Intimacy with God is found when you stop thinking about what you’ve lost and start thinking about all that He wants to give you. There’s a drastic difference in crying out to God in anger because life didn’t go the way you wanted it to and crying out to God in despair because you realize how far you are from Him. The color of the rescue boat is irrelevant.

As I look back on my life, I realize that many of my moments have been spent crying out to God in anger because my proverbial boat was sinking. The truth is, I wasn’t longing for God in those moments, I was longing for Him to replace the stuff it felt like I was losing. God was a means to my end.

I am learning that God is the end. But not only the end, He is the beginning. He is in each moment. And it’s in each moment where God asks us to empty our hands so we’ll be ready to receive all that He has prepared. We can’t leave our fingerprints on the world with clinched fists.

When you truly encounter God, you’ll stop bailing water from the sinking hull and learn to praise Him instead. Until then, you will remain indifferent, searching for momentary saviors from a world full of enemies. As I think about it, maybe that’s why He walked on water. To remind us that we never needed a boat to begin with.



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One Response to What to do When the Boat is Sinking | Thoughts on Honesty, Control, and Letting Go

  1. R Scott Wiley October 26, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

    “The truth is, I wasn’t longing for God in those moments, I was longing for Him to replace the stuff it felt like I was losing.”
    You’ve hit the core of what I’ve been thinking. In fact this entire post resonates with me. God has been leading me to think more and more about the words “letting go.” Let go of the sinking boat and reach out for Him. Thank you for posting this.