Struggle, Surrender

When You’re Drowning

When You’re Drowning

Doubt can feel like the deep end of the ocean.

I was 14 the summer I got lost in the waves. I nearly drown that summer, in the rip curling waves of the Atlantic. It wasn’t red-flag day but the tide was strong enough, and the undercurrent deceptive and fierce. I wasn’t far from shore when that wave swept me under but everybody knows that sometimes, it doesn’t take much before your gasping for breath.

The problem wasn’t the one wave that finally flipped me. It was the three waves before that, that all crashed over top of my head, every time I came up for air. The fourth wave was the one that took me under the longest.

I don’t remember how old I was when my Mother taught me to raise my arms if I ever got disoriented under water.Thank God, I remembered that nugget in that long moment, as the wave pounded and rolled me like a rag doll under it’s foaming fists. I rolled and rolled–I couldn’t see anything but sand.

Raise Your Hands

In a desperate moment my hands shot up, only to punch sand. What I thought was the surface, was instead the sea floor. I managed to plant my feet enough to kick off in the opposite direction, all the while my arms held stiff, straight up feeling for the surface. I had no air left.

I came up gasping, weeping frantic tears.

I had nearly drowned, and nobody had seen a thing.

I didn’t get back in the ocean that trip, or really, since.

Life has rolled me over some weary days and I’ve grown terribly disoriented and fearful looking for the surface. My doubt is an ocean with an undercurrent as deceptive and mysterious as ever. Questioning God can feel disorienting, when you’ve lived confident.

I know the truth, but my feelings leave me disoriented–displaced, feeling sideways. My doubt lately has been both ocean and anvil–both the weight submerges and the expanse that threatens to swallow me. I struggle, but I’m disoriented.

If doubt is what threatens to drown me, then it seems that faith ought to be what saves me. I cling desperately to my Jesus buoy. (Have you felt how hard doubt can pull? My faith is small–so much smaller than I want it to be.)

When you’re thrashed by the waves, stick your hands up. When you’re drowning and you’re not sure where to go to breathe, raise your arms!

Raised arms remind me of surrender. My hands are up–

I feel the air–heaven settling over my head. I’m not going to drown today.


Sharing this post in community with Jennifer and Emily


PS: Congrats to Gretchen for wining the Grace Tags Giveaway


  1. Elizabeth Stewart

    This is Psalm 40 in Kris language! When I was in the miry pit He reached down and set my feet on the solid Rock…how else could He reach down and lift me up if my arms aren’t up reaching out for Him?

  2. Amy

    “I know the truth, but my feelings leave me disoriented–displaced, feeling sideways.” Lately these feelings seem to be coming to strong and to often but now I will simply remember to raise my arms. To open my hand in surrender and lift my head in praise. Thank you for the visual that will be my reminder.

  3. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    Kris, I am so sorry for this place you’ve been lately. You’ve described it powerfully through this ocean metaphor. Hands up, indeed, friend. (I, too, have experienced those terrifying tumbles in the ocean, though not so awful as yours.)
    God’s certainly got us when we’re sure we’re going under. Praying for you right now. Much love to you and continued healing.

    1. You know, Ashley, I’ve felt very sorry for myself, as I’ve been wrestling, but the reality is, there is purpose even in this, and I am trying hard to remember that. It’s easy to be discouraged when we take our tumbles, but He has not left us. I know He sustains me. And You. Love to you.

  4. Rebekah M. Hallberg

    I know the feeling – all too well. And I know that when we hit the bottom, we find we are being held by the hand of God. But I only know that from being at the place that, to me, was the bottom. Ferociously raising my hands and looking for the surface! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. I don’t really have the words…this pains my heart because oh my, I’ve felt this way before, the gasping for air, the lonely struggle. Sharing in your tears, friend. Even though I know He IS there in the waves, He has purpose, and you WILL make it through by His strength…sometimes it’s a huge relief to have others to share in the struggle, you know? Praying for you. Love the encouragement I see here from so many who love you. The “raising your arms to keep from drowning” – YES…sooo good…hold your hands high, sister. May the prayers and encouragement of the saints be to you as Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses in the heat of battle. Praising Him for the victory. <3

    1. You know, Ashlie, It’s really ok. I am stunned (truly stunned) at the ways God has been using others to encourage me over the last week. I was in such a rough place, I was actually ignoring His encouragement, and shrugging it off, deeming it insufficient. But I’ve been so convicted about that, as even yesterday I received a piece of snail mail that came so utterly unexpected and offered such a gentle word of encouragement. I find myself continually humbled at how God chooses to speak. I don’t have to tell you I’ve spent time in confession and repentance for my attitude, but in spite of myself, I have felt His grace, and forgiveness, His gentle urging that reminds me that He KNOWS me, and He knows how fragile my faith is. He’s got me, my hands are up. I’m just having to rest there, believing that He keeps me afloat. Anyway, all this to say, thank you for your prayers and encouragement. YOU have been a buoy for me. Love you.

  6. Holly Solomon Barrett

    Kris, you’ve captured that bent-over double, gasping for breath feeling I’ve had on more than one occasion. I love the visual of lifting your hands in the air…reaching for Jesus. Great post!

  7. Deb Anderson Weaver

    Raising my arms today. Just sent an SOS email to my best friend. Continuing to cling to the Jesus bouy with my weak faith. Thank you for this!

  8. Kim@onerebelheart

    I love this picture of raising hands in surrender when we feel like we’re drowning. All too often my hands are busy trying to fix the situation myself when instead i need to open them and reach for help. Great message!


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