A common association for the anchor image in circles of faith is that we, as God’s people, have an anchor, or are anchored in the storms of life. It seems comforting in that the anchor presents a picture of something strong and immovable. When the storms of life come, tossing us around, we feel the desperate need to be immovable. But this thought came to me the other day: why would I want to be anchored, or purposely rooted in a storm?
Maybe it’s just a mincing of words, but follow me for a few minutes because I think this is a misconception which – while seemingly minor – can rob us of real treasure.
When we face an onslaught of difficult things, our response often leans toward survival. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, we do all we can to “just hold on.” Thus, the anchor image. If we’re people of faith, we reach for that anchor image in hard times, smearing the survival adage with a comforting illustration. We dub the anchor as a portrait of Jesus, or of our faith in Him, and then commence to clinging until the storm or storms have passed.
I know this because I’ve done this. And because I’ve done this, I also know that very little growth comes from doing this. This is why some people (and I was one of them) can go through harrowing things in life, seemingly without end, and come out or through none the wiser. There is no growth, no maturing that takes place through their trials and tribulations. No increase in intimacy with God, no visible change in their confidence or in their grace. With every new storm, the cycle repeats, and they just keep surviving, wondering when it will be over and why it just keeps happening to them.
No breakthrough, except to stay through.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Staying through counts. It is certainly better than giving up. And in modern theory, staying through ought to build some kind of soul muscle. Perseverance should produce the fruit of something virtuous. It’s just that, if our anchors are positioned in the wrong place, survival doesn’t yield much of a lasting reward. Sadly, I’ve known many people who have endured through horrible and numerous tragedies, and whose lives look and feel like the storms they’ve survived.
I get it. I have compassion for that, and for them. It’s just that I know that isn’t what God meant when He promised us an anchor in Christ. I know that, for all they’ve been through, their lives should possess something so much greater than the telltale signs of trauma and the cycles it tends to produce in an unrooted, unanchored soul. I know that, were their anchors only repositioned, their lives would look – and feel – so much different.
The Bible tells us that the real anchor we are holding onto is hope. Not just hope for survival, not hope that’s just trying to make it through. This hope, Scripture says, is a hope that carries us into a different place – a place we couldn’t get to on our own. The Contemporary English Version put it this way:
“This hope is like a firm and steady anchor for our souls. In fact, hope reaches behind the curtain and into the most holy place. Jesus has gone there ahead of us, and he is our high priest forever…” Hebrews 6:19-20
The most holy place is the room behind the curtain, behind the veil that once kept us from seeing and being near to God. It’s the hidden place. The inner sanctuary of God’s presence. Before Jesus came and died for our sins, we weren’t allowed into that place. Only one high priest per year could enter there, on behalf of the rest of us, and even then, he had to go through a purification process that would make most people’s heads spin. If there was any hidden sin in him, he would die in the presence of God, because God was too holy to be in the presence of sin.
When Jesus died on the cross, paying the price we deserved – death for our sin – the curtain, or veil, that stood between the holy, hidden place of God’s presence and the rest of the tabernacle (place of worship) was torn from the top to the bottom. This was a curtain so tall and so thick that no man could have ripped it even from the bottom to the top, much less the other way around. It was the hand of God that removed the barrier of separation that day, signifying that Jesus’ death had opened the way for sinners to come into the presence of a holy God without having to fear.
That’s a pretty heavy concept to grasp, but one that matters greatly because that hidden place of God’s presence is where we are supposed to be anchored in the storms of our lives. We were never meant to be anchored in the actual storm itself, thrashed about and barely surviving, except for the thing we’re clinging to that’s actually keeping us stuck there. What a sad image of our Jesus: us hanging on for dear life while He just stands there, firm and steadfast, expecting us to endure just because we’re holding onto Him.
That’s the picture most people carry in the storms of their life. It’s rather helpless, and it brings clarity to the struggle I see most people living every day. No wonder they have a hard time trusting God. No wonder they turn to other means of help. If the “Savior” they know simply drags them out to stormy seas and plants them there, expecting them to just hang on and live to tell the story of how they survived because of Jesus, I can understand why so many people believe in Him but don’t want to be led by Him.
But that’s not the Jesus I know. Nor is it the Jesus the Bible tells us about.
The Jesus of the Bible is the One Who has power over the storms of life. He is the One Who died to lead us through them and bring us out of them, not just help us survive them. That doesn’t mean we will never have to endure through a storm, but it does mean that, in that storm, the anchor doesn’t drop in the turbulent waters. Instead, it carries us into the very presence of God. The anchor is hope, and that hope is firmly rooted in the reality that Jesus removed the barrier between us and God (our sin and failures), and reconciled us to the One Who keeps His promises as we rest in Him. Moreover, the Bible says that Jesus is the living hope within us! He is that anchor of our souls, which carries us from raging winds and waves into the presence of the One Who has attached a purpose and a promise to everything we go through. Survival, then, is no longer the goal. Glory is.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, if you have never considered where you tend to drop anchor in your life – particularly in the storms of your life, and if you’ve never considered what that anchor is made of, now is a good time to do just that. You were never meant to be rooted or anchored in the chaos and overwhelm of life. You were always meant to be rooted and anchored in the peace and promise of God’s presence. Where you position your anchor, and what your anchor is made of, will determine whether you merely survive your storms, or find breakthrough on the other side of them!