“Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”
What an evocative lyric. It is from Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” It is a haunting ballad of a ship that went down in a November storm on Lake Superior in 1975. The last thing that they heard from the ship was a radio communication from the captain, who said, “We are holding our own.” Minutes later she sank suddenly. Twenty-nine men lost their lives on that fateful day. A record cargo worth 24 million was lost too. The nightly newscaster Harry Reasoner reported, “All that’s been found is an oil slick and some debris.”
Though over 240 ships have been lost on the rough sailing lake, it is the Edmund Fitzgerald that most captures the imagination.
Why would that be? Of all the wrecks of all time, other than the Titanic, so many have gone unremembered. The SS Central America’s loss off the coast of the Carolinas in 1857 was greater in loss of cargo worth and greater in lives lost. More than 550 passengers and crew died and 30,000 pounds of gold sank with them, contributing to the Panic of 1857.
The SS General Slocum caught fire and sank in New York’s East River on 15 June 1904. More than 1,000 people died in the accident, making it New York City’s worst loss-of-life incident until the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Perhaps we are so touched by the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald because of the Lightfoot song. It is vivid to be sure. Perhaps because of the lack of consensus on how the great ship sank. To this day there are competing theories, but after good video was taken from a submersible in 1994, the only thing that became more evident is that the ship broke up on the surface and the trip to the bottom tortured it. The twisted metal between the two halves spoke of the power of the seas when it chooses to claim a ship. A body was discovered laying beside the bow, still in his life jacket. The power of the seas claims lives too, and the torture of such a loss is just as great and greater. Perhaps because it is impossible to truly understand how time telescopes when you are in such an environment. The minutes do turn to hours.
If you are a mariner you know when you’re in a storm your two hour watch seems like days, and you look at your watch and only one minute has passed. It is disorienting to be in the dark, with waves crashing over you. You never know where the next wave will come from, always on the lookout for the rogue. Where is the lighthouse? Bleary eyes keep searching for that saving light, but all you see is more waves, and more dark, and fear. You feel helpless, powerless, in the dark, crying out to God for desperate help.
The Fitzgerald, or any other ship in distress, is a microcosm. It will be like that in the Tribulation, for example. Helpless, fearful, in the dark, navigating blindly, rogue waves washing over you, piteously crying out to God, wondering, where is the love of God in all this? Will this ever end? And just as suddenly as it began, it is over. Your tortured trip to the deeps is the last journey of your mortal body, while your soul flies to hell, where it will stay forever. Until the judgment that is, when your resurrected body will be reunited with your soul and the agony will really begin.
Suddenly when the trumpet call of the rapture sounds and Christians fly away, your storm will begin. The world’s storm will begin, there will be no safe harbor. There is no Whitefish Bay to aim for, no place that will offer you a good anchorage.
The storms will be relentless; earthquakes, tornadoes, diseases, violence, war. One after the other will crash over you relentlessly and yet you will never know where the next will come from. you will look for relief but will not be able to find it. And that is before the demons arrive. Their bite will be agony and you will want to die, try to die, but death will flee from you. (Revelation 9:6).
The agony of pain and tribulation will be unceasing. The trapped feeling, that this will never end, that there is no way out will pervade your mind and make you mad with despair. The knowledge that death is going to come but the agony of not knowing when will pierce your demented soul.
But God is love, you say. Isn’t this just too depressing? Yes it is depressing. I cry when I think of the countless millions who will be lost. Maybe you are one of those. The Tribulation will be a time of wrath. God is love, but He will pour out His wrath on men.
Carm.org defines His wrath:
“Biblically, wrath is the divine judgment upon sin and sinners. It does not merely mean that it is a casual response by God to ungodliness, but carries the meaning of hatred, revulsion, and indignation. God is by nature love (1 John 4:16), however, in His justice He must punish sin. The punishment is called the wrath of God. It will occur on the final Day of Judgment when those who are unsaved will incur the wrath of God. It is, though, presently being released upon the ungodly (Rom. 1:18-32) in the hardening of their hearts. Wrath is described as God’s anger (Num. 32:10-13), as stored up (Rom. 2:5-8), and as great (Zech. 7:12). The believer’s deliverance from God’s wrath is through the atonement (Rom. 5:8-10). “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Thess. 5:9).”
The Tribulation is a near-future seven-year period of time when God is prophesied to finish His discipline of Israel and to finish His judgment of the unbelieving world. So yes, He is love but He is wrath too. “Love is an attribute of God. Love is a core aspect of God’s character, His Person. God’s love is in no sense in conflict with His holiness, righteousness, justice, or even His wrath. All of God’s attributes are in perfect harmony. Everything God does is loving, just as everything He does is just and right. God is the perfect example of true love.” (source)
He sent His son to take the wrath we deserve. If you believe on the name of the resurrected Jesus, you will escape the wrath and live an eternity of love with God. But if you refuse His love gift of Jesus it means you accept the wrath. Believe on Jesus today. Repent of your sins and believe that Jesus is Lord, having lived a perfect life and taken the punishment for your sins unto Himself. God was pleased to substitute His son for your penalty and resurrected Him as proof of that acceptance. If you repent and believe you will not have to endure the Tribulation’s wrath. It will be a time when the waves of trouble turn the minutes to hours. You will beg to die, but if you die apart from Jesus, those waves of agony turning minutes to hours will never end.
You will have a chance to believe in Jesus after the rapture, the bible shows us that there are martyrs who are killed for their faith, a faith they came to after we were taken out of the time of Jacob’s Trouble. But you may die before then. You may die during the first moment of the Tribulation. You may come under the delusion and believe the antichrist. It is too risky. This is the Age of Grace. Now is the time.
“All that’s been found is an oil slick and some debris.” That will be YOU.
You will be a smudge on the great timeline of history. You think you are holding your own, but destruction is moments away from you. You, debris, blotted out from the Lamb’s book of life and entered in the book of death. A name, a person forgotten and dispersed as an oil slick eventually dissipating to something of no consequence, like a vapor. An enemy of God howling in agony in hell while the rest of blessed eternity continues joyfully apace.
JESUS IS THE LIGHT. Come home to safe harbor.