'The waves were higher than the boat ... it was terrifying'

Robyn’s story | Learning God has broad shoulders – even in a storm

“The only time I’d ever been out in a boat was on the Manly ferry. But then in 1982, we moved to Lae, in Papua New Guinea. We lived there for a year, while we were part of a project to help restore a ship, for the purposes of sharing the Gospel. One particular day, we were heading back to Lae across the Huon Gulf. It was 25 miles and we were in a small motor boat, belonging to someone else. Our friends told us that there was only enough petrol in the boat for three and a quarter hours, at the very most. We set off at 1.00pm in the afternoon. The sea was glassy smooth at first. But sometimes in the tropics that’s a sign of a storm coming, so I said that to my (then) husband and he said, “No, we’ll be fine.” We put out into the middle of the gulf and not long after, the steering failed. The hydraulic fluid leaked all over the deck. It was so slippery. My husband tried to install the emergency tiller and while he was occupied with that, the storm hit, with full force. The waves were higher than the boat. The wind was howling. It was terrifying. Our three-year-old son was screaming in utter terror.  I had to leave him in the downstairs section while I helped on the deck. I called out to God, “You calmed the storm in Galilee. Why can’t you calm this storm?”
But no answer came. Instead, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small picture on the wall of the cabin. It was of Jesus with a little child, helping him to steer a boat. It didn’t help me. It just made me angry. Why couldn’t God help us? More than three hours went by. I knew that the engine was going to run out of fuel. I was praying, but it was mostly panic prayers. If a motor dies on a boat, the boat swings around beam on to the waves and then it capsizes. I knew that without a miracle we faced imminent death. The water was full of sharks and even crocodiles. But the engine just kept going. It was nearly four hours when we finally got to the dock in Lae. As soon as we got there, a man on the dock caught our rope and he fastened it to the bollard, and that’s when the fuel ran out. It was a miracle! It was also the first time that I realised that, as much as anything, God has broad shoulders. I really understood it then. It didn’t matter if I was angry with God. He would still be there for me, no matter what I was doing or thinking. There’s a verse in Isaiah 43 that says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” (v1-2). It doesn’t mean, of course, that hard things don’t happen. I’ve been through many, many hard things in my life (the loss of our daughter, a broken marriage, homelessness, poverty) and yet God has been faithful. He says “I’m not letting you go.” And I know that Jesus has known suffering – the greatest suffering of all. Jesus took our sins on himself when he died on the cross for us. He endured separation from God and he did it for us. He has redeemed us! For me, after that time in the boat, I know that Jesus is with me and he’s still walking with me, through every storm.”

Robyn’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.