This weekend, we embarked on a sail from Brighton Marina to Portsmouth harbour. We were all set for an 8-10 hour relaxing sail to Portsmouth. The guys were going on to watch the Olympic sailing in Weymouth, I had decided just to sail down to Portsmouth with them. There were 6 of us on board, a couple completing their competent crew training and the rest of us sailing for fun with a bit of learning thrown in.

As soon as we left the safety of Brighton marina harbour wall, the catamaran began rocking from side to side dramatically. The ornaments fell off the windowsills and we couldn’t stand up. Like trying to read the air hostesses faces on the flight when the fasten seatbelts lights go on, I studied our skipper’s expression to see how he looked. Duncan looked calm enough. He already knew both the tide and the wind were against us all the way but I hadn’t realised this was what would be the outcome.

‘It will settle in a minute,’ I kept thinking, ‘we must be in the swell of the boat in front.’

There was no boat in front.

Just a Force 6 westerly wind, we were sailing West. The boat proceeded to rock and sway like a relentless rollercoaster ride for four hours. Each one of us dropped like flies to the point that people were throwing up over the sides of the boat and none of us could string a sentence together. Something surreal about being with a group of strangers, all slightly green in colour, unable speak and all thinking  ‘hey ho, only another 7 hours of this. Somebody make it stop!’

A Catamaran is a sturdy boat,  it felt safe enough, just pretty uncomfortable. We also trusted our skipper, who calmly made us tea and bacon butties.

During recent storms in my life I wish I could have trusted in God the way I trusted our skipper that day. Like those four turbulent hours on board, I wanted the grey skies to clear quickly, the rocky waves to subside and the sea be calm again so I could luxuriously lie on the front deck pretending I was living someone else’s life.  Instead, I gripped the sides with white knuckles, inwardly moaned and groaned and wanted a shortcut. But life’s’ not like that.

It is in the depths of our suffering, when our frail human backs are against the wall that we really cry out to God. I mean really cry out to him. And he says ‘I know’.

‘I knew you before you were born and will know you when your hair is white with age. I even know the number of hairs on your head’ (paraphrased)

‘I know suffering’, he says, ‘I too suffered’.

It is then that we know he is in our midst. He sees our tears, hears our cries, heals our wounds and gives us His peace when things sometimes feel too much to bear.

When we’re clinging on with dear life to our own despair, focusing on the size of the waves and the motion sickness, it can be easy to miss him handing out the bacon sarnies.

Peace be with you.