When It Feels Like You Are Sinking

Text: Psalm 69:1-18

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” Isaiah 43:2

Have you ever felt like you were going to drown? In the early 90s I was preaching a series of revival meetings in West Virginia. Some fellows from the church decided to take me whitewater rafting on Class 4 rapids, a more advanced level of river rafting. Upon hitting a boulder, four of us were thrown from the raft and into the raging current. I was tossed around under water for several seconds—which seems more like minutes when you are powerless to get to the surface—bouncing off rocks and carving up my flesh.

I thought my life was over.

Then, the wrath of the river had a merciful moment as it spit me back out to the surface. As I gasped for air, I never valued oxygen more than that moment in my life.

It’s a scary feeling having such a powerful force of nature overtake you, leaving you helpless to save yourself. Sometimes the stuff of life can carry that imagery. It did for David as he wrote Psalm 69. “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck,” he cried. “I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.”

David lamented feeling weak and weary—all his energy spent, his throat parched from crying out as he waited for God to rescue him (v.3). Numerous were those who “hated him without cause” and “attacked him with lies” (v.4). Even the drunks at the local pub made their songs about him (v.12). Yet David brought his plea before God. In verses 13-18, he expresses his humble reliance upon God for salvation: “my prayer is to you… answer me… deliver me… let not the flood sweep over me… hide not your face… draw near.”

His prayer appeals to what He already knows about the character of God: “for your steadfast love is good” (v.16). Though David feels like he is drowning in a flood, without a foothold, he still knows he can reach upward and trust what God has scripturally, historically, and consistently revealed about Himself; God abounds in “steadfast love” and “saving faithfulness.” For David, it was a time of rejection with man, but acceptance with God. He was overwhelmed by the temporal frustrations of life, yet overcome by the inexhaustible grace of God.

Centuries later, the Son of David heard the cries of a drowning disciple (Matthew 14:22-33). Peter had zealously stepped out of a boat one stormy night, bidding that Jesus would permit him to walk on water. I love that we never see Jesus rebuking Peter for his bold request to do the impossible! He stepped in faith. Then his vision drifted in fear. When he took his eyes off of Jesus he began to sink. He cried desperately, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Eventually the waves will calm. The winds will cease. The waters will subside. But the one constant will always be the steadfastness of God’s love:

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
This one thing remains

Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me

Because on and on and on and on it goes
Yes it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
‘Cause this one thing remains

In death, in life, I’m confident
Covered by the power of your great love
I know my debt is paid, there’s nothing that can
Separate my heart from your great love
(*Bethel Music)

God’s intransient love for us—it can never, will never cease. “Though you have changed a thousand times, He has not changed once,” said Spurgeon. We can surely endure anything by pondering His permanence and fixing our eyes on Him. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.


Heavenly Father, thank you for your enduring faithfulness. Even when we come into deep waters, your steadfast love can still be trusted. Though the rapids may come up to our neck, and the current overwhelms, you will indeed rescue. You will not hide your face. You will always draw near. Always. Thank you for this promise! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. When was the last time you felt helpless, or overwhelmed about a situation?
  2. Have you ever grown weary in waiting for God to rescue you from something?
  3. In Psalm 69, we see David shift from focusing on his overwhelming problems to praise in God’s intransient character. What can we learn from this?
  4. How did David demonstrate humility before God? (Psalm 69:5, 10-11)
  5. In what ways can you turn your problems into praise this week?

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