My family and I spent the day at the beach recently and it was amazing! God is in the process of teaching me and my husband how to rest and play. That sounds nice, but in our culture of busyness, it’s easier in theory than in reality. We have had more than one occasion of fighting off the voices that say we are just being unproductive and lazy. God is essentially teaching us that our identity is more than what we do; it’s who we are, who God has created us to be. And to come to the full realization of who we are, we need to learn to rest in Him and enjoy His Presence.

While Josh and I were playing out in the water, I couldn’t help but to think of what the waves symbolize. The waves came one after the other—some large, some small. While we played in the surf, we had to be mindful of all the waves. Even the small ones could leave us with a mouthful of seawater if we weren’t paying attention. The big ones were powerful enough to knock us off our feet and completely submerge us.

You could say that the waves are like life’s difficult circumstances, but I believe they more closely resemble our emotions when dealing with the issues of life. Emotions come whether you’re aware of them or not, just like the waves. Our ability to pass through depends on our awareness of the waves and our willingness to face them head on no matter how difficult they are.

As I got used to being out in the water and riding the waves, it became more and more enjoyable. Even with the huge waves that seemed to overshadow me with their enormity, I became more assured of my ability to pass through them. Sure, I will probably get drenched. I may even get knocked down. But I will stand again and face the waves.

Problems would arise when I ignored the waves or turned my back to them. I couldn’t anticipate the waves, so they would catch me off guard. I had to learn to feel the conditions of the water and embrace the inevitable if I was going to pass through them.

It is the same for those who ignore their emotions and don’t pay attention to the condition of their hearts. When the emotions arise, they are knocked down and don’t know how to respond. They have not learned to be sensitive to the condition of their hearts and, therefore, have no idea how to navigate.

Others encounter problems when they do not stand firm on the sand below and end up being carried and tossed by the waves. These are people who let their emotions control them and are swept away by everything they feel.

The longer I was learning to ride the waves and then plant my feet back on the sandy ground below the surface of the water, the more I began to feel the subtle cues of the current. I could estimate when the next big wave would come. I could tell if a wave was going to break before it reached us or after it reached us, or if it was going to topple right over us. Depending on how big the waves were and where they were breaking, I could position myself in such a way that they would do less damage.

The most important factor in all of this is to maintain our footing on solid ground, which is our relationship with God. Without this anchor, we will either be tossed to and fro by the oncoming waves or we will be too afraid to face them head on. God is our Solid Rock in which to stand. He is our Peace through the storms of life. He does not take us from the difficult circumstances; He guides us through them.

I understand the fear and confusing nature of emotions. Just as passing through the waves would lift me and create a moment of uncertainty, embracing emotions and bravely walking through them seems to put you in deep, swirling waters of self-doubt. But the more you face them head-on and allow God to guide you through them, the more He strengthens you and builds your capacity for larger obstacles. As you choose to conquer the challenges despite your fear, your courage will grow and you will be strong enough to swim into deeper waters.

So, what will you choose? You can stay in the shallow end where it’s nice and safe. You can attempt to come out to the deeper water and either ignore your emotions or get swept up into them. Or you can choose to embrace the difficult emotions, face them head on, and allow God to be your anchor.