Sometimes I feel like I rise up with wings like eagles only to fall with wings like penguins.

I must preempt my conversation here with an apology to many of my Christian friends who are going to see this post and cry out in protest. I understand your concern, and it is valid. However, this is a blog and there are certain liberties that can be taken within the blog genre that are not available in other venues. The primary attribute of a blog that expresses such liberties is the ability to engage personal emotions without a governor.

Looking in the mirror today, I saw the same face as yesterday. I found my eyes to be worn and tired. They did not look good. I saw within them the residue of hurt, pain, and failure. I found myself downcast with shame for the testimony they give to others. I thought of many friends I want to see. I thought of those whom I love here in Oklahoma who need Jesus. I want to see them, but I don’t want them to see me. I have a message for them, but I don’t know if it is written in my eyes. My eyes tell a different story. They tell a story, for many people, of why we should NOT become Christians. “You want to look like that?” someone may say as they look breifly into my eyes. “I don’t. He looks more defeated than anyone I have ever seen. Look at his eyes. Let us pity him, not follow him.”

Isn’t it funny how eyes tell a story? Everyone – everything – looks into your eyes before they look anywhere else. Even animals somehow know to look into our eyes. Old friends do not come up to you and devote attention to your hands or ears. They don’t ask you to open your mouth so that they can examine the history told by your teeth. They look into your eyes and find the exposed nudity of your soul.

I used to have green eyes. My green eyes used to be an endearing and attractive means by which I lured many young ladies to my side. I don’t know what color they are now. They may still be green. I am not sure. No one knows. It is hard to notice color anymore when the life in my eyes does not offer to tell such things anymore. It gives a more vivid history that overwhelms such incidentals as color.

My eyes tell a story and the story is true. But you have to look deeply into them to get the whole story.

Isaiah 40:31:
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Is there a better verse than this? I mean, really. This is one of the best propositions in all of Scripture. I love it.

U2 wrote a song about this verse. Read the lyrics here if you are so inclined:

Take my hand
You know I’ll be there
If you can
I’ll cross the sky for your love

For I have promised
Oh, to be with you tonight
And for the time that will come

Take my hand
You know I’ll be there
If you can
I’ll cross the sky for your love

And I understand
These winds and tides
This change of times
Won’t drag you away

Hold on, and hold on tightly
Hold on, and don’t let go
Of my love

The storms will pass…the storm will pass…
It won’t be long now…it won’t be long now…
His love will last
His love will last…forever

Take my hand
You know I’ll be there
If you can
I’ll cross the sky for your love
Give you what I hold dear

Hold on, hold on tightly
Hold on, hold on tightly
Rise up, rise up
With wings like eagles
You run, you run
You run and not grow weary

…Take my hand, take my hand…

Hold on, and hold on tightly
Hold on, hold on tightly
To this love…last forever
To this love…last forever

Take my hand

You may not know this, but the above are words of a love song from God to us based on the passage in Isaiah. It is appropriately entitled “Drowning Man.” I don’t know if there is a better U2 song ever written. (Listen to it here.)

Drowning. Maybe that is what my eyes communicate. “I’m drowning!”

Old friends come into the Credo House. I lead them back into my office with high hopes to introduce them to Someone I know and Someone they need to know. “Please give me strength and the right words,” I silently pray as we enter my office. We turn to look at each other for the first time in years. They know I changed and started following this Person. They wonder if this Person might be able to help them as well. I wonder if I should not put a bag over my head to hide the fading glory of my eyes, but that would be inappropriate. Finally, they see me. They look deep into my eyes and see the drowning man.

But don’t go away. The green in my eyes may not be visible anymore. And I know this is not what you expected, but there is Something here that you may need. No, I don’t have what you were hoping for, but give me a chance to change your hopes. Join me and the color of your eyes will fade too. Join me and you will experience disappointment, brokenness, and sometimes, a Great Sadness like you never thought possible. Join me and all your problems will not go away. I don’t offer that kind of hope. I am simply going to offer you a pair of wings. They are eagles’ wings. Some days they work, and some days they don’t seem to work at all. The wings themselves may create scars in your eyes that could be avoided should you decide not to take them. You will fall over and over again with these wings. For the most part, you will not know how to use them. One day you will soar into the clouds, the next day you will crash onto the rocks. But I can assure you of this: These wings are from God. They will never break, become damaged, or lost. They will be there every morning and every evening. In the best of times and in the worst of times, these wings will be in your eyes. The wings that are offered anywhere else may seem to “work” better, but they don’t last. Rather, they are counterfeit wings which seek to bring the color back into your eyes alone. But what is the color worth if the wings are only of temporary transient value?

I take the bag off my head and offer you this: Look into my eyes and see what you will. Maybe you see me today as a drowning man. But don’t fail to see the wings of hope. Don’t fail to see that Jesus Christ has given me eternal wings. Don’t fail to see that I will rise up every day with wings like eagles, even though I may not be able to use these wings very well. Don’t fail to see that there is something different. I may be drowning at times, but I will never drown. With all other wings, you will eventually drown.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    44 replies to "Drowning Man"

    • Quincy

      just ran across your site/ministry (though i think i may have heard of it)…encouraged.

      and great post, though it does not speak specifically to the real struggles Christians have (so losing some real existential and potential) value, i am still very encouraged by its honesty as i am that drowning man also.

      so, question…if you’re willing to share…how has this reality affected the way you think about and do theology?

      i know my drowning has moved me beyond the simplistic answer of “sanctification will not be complete in this life” and has fallen into the category of theodicy and impacted how i understand the gospel, its power and efficacy.

      if i’m ever in Edmond, i def will stop by the shop

    • dave

      You don’t read that kind of honesty anymore, but I don’t think ive heard anyone explain it better. There are many “dark nights of the soul” in our Christian walk, but maybe those are to make the sunrises all the more beautiful. Sometimes people need to see pain before they can let go of theirs.

    • Mike O

      I wonder if we’re related? I have the same eyes.

      I loved your closing line … “I may be drowning at times. But I will never drown.”

    • Mike O

      Some time ago, someone said it doesn’t matter if Christians are right or “have the truth” if people don’t want to be like us. This post reminded me of that.

    • Terri

      I can relate. Lately I’ve been wondering if I should be exuding more outward joy in my christian walk. It is quite a dichotomy, I do not feel a whole lot of joy in my current position in life but inside me there is a certain comfort, peace and joy because of the assurances I have from Christ’s love. Yesterday, I was praying and I told God that I hated where I was in life right now and I felt like the Holy Spirit responded with some questions for me – do you believe you are, at this moment, where I want you to be? I replied, yes and another question came to my spirit – so are you saying you hate where I want you to be right now? Then that raised issues of not finding my contentment and joy in the Lord rather than my circumstances. Many people do not understand this inner life with the Lord but I did find the questions to be grounding and felt encouraged by it, but I don’t know if I will ever exude “joy” that I am told real Christians ought to. And yes, we will NOT drown. God…

    • anita

      It’s Not Fair!
      May 20, 2012
      “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” — Psalm 73:2-3

      If you have ever looked around at the world and the child in you screamed “it’s not fair,” then Psalm 73 is for you! You are in good company too. Like most people do at some point in their lives, King David strived to understand why the wicked prosper while the good suffer. In this Psalm, he expresses his frustration, but also his resolution.

      The psalmist gives words to the feelings so many hold inside: “This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth” (v.12). We look around and see a world in which many evil people have it so easy.

      “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence” (v.13). And then there are the good people, and even saintly people, whose lives bring them one struggle after the next. So what’s it worth?

    • anita

      All the prayer, the good deeds, and all the faith in the world and still they have it tough. Is it all in vain, as the psalmist suggests? Is there no divine justice in the world? Even King David had to ask.

      “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (v.16—17). Once the psalmist looked at life from a godly perspective, he understood this deeply troubling issue. From our limited human perspective we experience life as physical beings that, on occasion, have spiritual experiences. But the truth is that we are spiritual beings, and for a limited amount of time, we are having a physical experience. We did not come from this planet, and we won’t be staying here forever. We are on a trip until the day we arrive home.

      From this perspective we can understand that we don’t see the whole story down here. The “final destiny” of the wicked — and of the righteous — will be decided up there.

    • anita

      Our existence in this world is so very limited. However, life in the world to come is for eternity. It’s not easy to suffer in this world, but deep down we all know that it’s our final destiny that matters most.

      Next time you find yourself frustrated with the cards you were dealt, remember to S-T-O-P: Stop what you are doing. Take a deep breath. Observe the true reality and shift your Perspective. Then, like the psalmist, you also will be able to find comfort and say “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v.26).

      With prayers for shalom, peace,

      Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

    • anita

      Sorry that was so long. I hope it helps someone….me.

    • Rebecca

      Every single day I am at battle. Some days I conquer. But too many I am a prisoner of war and somebody is trying to get me to cough up highly confidential material. And when I don’t, I have hell to pay.

      But when the torment stops and I look like death warmed over, I’m still here. Crumpled on the floor in a heap. Maybe I bled but I didn’t melt or dissolve. Maybe I couldn’t bust my chains free like Wonder Woman could have and send the enemy running but I remained loyal enough. Just enough. I didn’t betray. I didn’t commit treason. Name, rank and serial number. That’s all.

      I was told once that my eyes were as blue as the water in Hawaii. My eyes were by trademark. I too, look into the mirror and can hardly see my eyes let alone the color. War will age you, will cause fading.

      Here I am….again, a mess. Something or Somebody pulls me together….Thank God…literally.

    • Kevin Bullock

      Thanks brother.

    • caleb

      I feel ya, bro. Been there often. Lived there for about a year when our church plant failed and we ended up in debt (which we are still working on paying off, but should in the next year or two).

      God will pull you through. But it usually takes work. And a vacation. Not a tourist vacation, but a real, restful vacation (I had to take a short one yesterday – spent all day playing with my daughter, playing video games, or doing light housework. Was a good thing.

      As one of my profs says: Grace is free, everything else is hard work.

    • Shelly

      Thank you. Today the waters are over just head. Needed this.

    • A is for Atheist

      I feel compassion for anyone who feels they are “drowning”–but I also believe actions speak louder than words. A drowning person can only be “saved” by another person (or perhaps a raft)–there is nothing supernatural about it.

      I believe that we, as human beings are solely responsible for our own actions, and we MUST be prepared for the consequences of those actions. To blame evil actions on Satan, and to have Jesus take the fall–allows believers to avoid the responsibility–and as the ancient Christian philosopher Pelagius once noted, this leads to “moral laxity.”

      Your wings are your own, and you are responsible for them. Whether you fly or not–is completely up to you.

    • This reminds me of many of our Christian poets, sometimes like John of the Cross, and other Christian poets, we can only express our so-called existential self in this feeling and genre like “drowning”, or interior loss. And then we can turn to Christ and hear Him cry: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Indeed human life is sometimes like ‘the Dark Night of the Soul’! But thanks be to God Christ knows it, feels it.. even more deeply! And before Him we can pour out our hearts! And often this is beyond our words, themselves, but just the “brokeness” alone. Every Christian must face this brokeness at times. If you have not experienced the this depth? You will I think sometime, this is the Spirit of Christ, Himself, in the depth of a broken self, and a sinful world. (2 Cor. 4:7-18)

    • Brian Millhollon

      First time writing but followed your posts for a while. Thank you for having the courage to confront the hard questions, for having the faith to believe that there are still answers. Answer that is both place, a distant kingdom and far off country, and person: rejected by all but a few, in spite of pain, rejection, darkness, loss, believed, finished the course, sowed, his life into the ground, for the prize, everlasting life for all who choose to come. Eternal door, wellspring and foundation of forever. Thank you for sticking it out, believing that truth, wisdom, understanding is THE goal, the pearl, the treasure, worth losing all. Worth it all. Thanks Mike

    • Christopher Rushlau

      It is hard to be a white man. Hard enough to be a white woman. “White” means “know-it-all”. In white society, the women, except for the fallen women, are the priestess-prostitutes. The white man just have to do their duty and keep the home safe.
      Which is to say, the whole thing is a crock. Being currently in a “Global War On Terror” which is increasingly clearly nothing but a war to wipe some tribe of indigenous persons, it grows on us how European culture is sort of a lottery fixation. Nothing is rooted, everything’s a test.
      “Like a child rests in its mother’s arms, so will I rest in You.”
      Reject any theology in which God is a psychopath.

    • Daniel Brady

      I do not read every post, but WOW! This is every honest Christian’s life story beautifully summed up and expressed. But how sad it is that the Church has created the expectation that Christians have it all together; that we’re always supposed to be joyous, and that we never make mistakes. God Himself knows that sometimes it seems I sin more often than I obey.

      But by His grace, He has forgiven each and every one, and He has been teaching me not to punish myself for my sin. For to do so is to tell Him that His grace is not good enough for me.

      Therefore, allow me to encourage all who have lost the color in their eyes (myself included): Allow the gospel of Christ and His forgiveness to put a sparkle in your eye. When others look into them, let your eyes tell the story that says, “I have sinned more times than I can count. But my God has forgiven me, cleansed me of my guilt, and removed my shame.”

    • Marie

      This post touched me more than the sermons I have been hearing lately. I’ve been a Christian for a long time and it
      seems I just cant “get it right” according to the church these days. Living in depression & being told I am being selfish and living for myself or I wouldnt be in depression just doesnt seem too Christ-like to me. Thank you so much for your writing. I feel like you threw a life-line to me. God Bless.

    • Denise

      What a great post! I think that God’s power shines even when our human eyes are filled with pain, disappointment and weariness. God uses our brokenness even better than our strength. His strength is made perfect in our weakness, right? Thank you for being real…it’s amazing how freeing it is for me at least, to realize that this candor dares me to draw closer to God in my weakness. Since God doesn’t change, our variability in peace, strength and joy have already been accounted for by Him ahead of time. Thank you for the gift of your post.

    • oliver marks

      I was interested in your headline, although for me it has always been avoid a drowning man he will drag you under to save himself, however I as well feel a little tired in my christian li”fe, , and I used to feel quite successful ; that is, the words the wise man and the fool end up in the same place” used to make me feel cheated, now they bring me comfort

    • Greg

      Assuming that the apostles have quoted Jesus correctly, He came that we may have life and life abundantly. Starting from there and working backwards does help. We can never live on the mountaintop ALL the time. Man is not so constituted. Going through the valley of death is equally important yet we go n ot alone.

      Even the watching world knows that anyone with continual bright eyes is one who often pretends.

      Mat God’s shalom be yours

    • Ron Bock

      Finally….people are telling the truth.

    • Benedict Gnaniah

      With HIM i can take on this world in my utter feeling of being lost and weak. Do I have to be clear, sharp, focused, strong (as defined by the world) to life a meaningful life?

      For the weaker and unclear I get .. the stronger and clear is HE in me.

    • […] Whilst risking offending my superb fellow bloggers, it is my observation that the same can be said of Christian blogs. Rarely do I read of an author’s ongoing personal struggles; I think the notable exception to this would be Michael Patton, see for example his most recent post entitled simply: Drowning Man. […]

    • Tom Ellis

      Michael, if some of the sadness, fatigue and sense of failure you feel is rooted in a self-perception of inadequacy to impact each person who seeks your guidance in the way you want to, relax. I rather doubt that God feels the same way. In fact, with what little certitude I can muster when it comes to understanding God and His perception of Michael Patton, I would say that He can’t help but be very pleased. I think we both believe that God is absolutely sovereign. So it’s not your job to save…that’s the business of the Holy Spirit. The thought that I’m not responsible for “saving” anyone is liberating…I’m just a tool! Our job is to competently, confidently and lovingly spread the Gospel and let the Lord take it from there.

    • Brian

      Moses got embarressed because the glory on his face kept fading, so he put a bag over his head. Your eyes may or may not be as green as they once were, but they are the eyes that He has given you. I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, for I know from WHOM my help comes. Not from the hills, certainly, but if the hills are “up”, that means we are in the valley (perhaps even the valley of death). If the eye is clear, then light can enter the whole body.

    • Andrew


      This sounds terrible! What pain! My suggestion is that you need a new church. That is what I am looking for in my pain and struggles and looking for the old paths. but the old paths are not “mean” paths like some baptist churches that are mean. Please check out this church I found a really nice baptist church online:

    • #25. Indeed my first statement (#15), was based upon the subjective real Christian himself/herself. But I totally agree that we are not to look at “overselves” overly, even as servants and pastors of God. But we must itself, speak as St. Paul says as “stewards of the mysteries of God.” But yet be found faithful! (1 Cor. 4:1-2, etc.)…and this is to the ‘Gospel of God’. But, this Gospel has for the Reformation and Reformed, ‘Law & Gospel’, and here God as you say is always “sovereign”!

    • ruben

      I have been following your blog for a long time and I really empathize with your feelings. I had been in deep depression for a period of 2 years or so and I was drowning like you, I pleaded, begged and sought God to rescue me but He did not come in the way I thought He would. I blamed Him for my depression. I’m better now and I can see my error, God never changed, it was me who sank and my perception of Him sank with me. The darkness of my thoughts carried over to my view of God. It was as if I was stuck in a rut and I did everything in my power to “force God’s hand” to change my situation, but the more I tried the deeper I sank. I was bitter and hopeless. I wanted some miraculous intervention, but it never came. What came instead were people who loved me, little glimpses of what really matters, fun, self forgetfulness. Now that I am better I realize that it was me, and that God had done what i asked, but not on my terms and not the way I thought He would, but He did and I am…

    • Craig

      On the LP (vinyl) version, “Drowning Man” concludes the first side. Concluding the second is “40” which is based on the first bit of Psalm 40. Here are the lyrics:

      I waited patiently for the Lord
      He inclined and heard my cry.
      He brought me right out of the pit,
      out of my miry clay.
      I will sing a new song,
      How long to sing this song?
      He set my feet upon a rock,
      and made my footsteps heard.
      Many will see,
      Many will see and fear.
      I will sing, sing a new song.
      How long to sing this song?

      Not sure what Bono meant by ‘How long?’ as by the context the ‘new song’ refers to renewal from depressing conditions as well as to salvation for the lost. Perhaps he means ‘how long’ until the next bout of depression. This album closer ends their 3rd release, ‘War’, on a pensive, reflective, yet hopeful note. It may be meant to provide a counterpoint to “Drowning Man”.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides


      You need the Gospel from a Word-Faith preacher. You won’t be drowning anymore once you know the Jesus that they preach.

      (tippy-toe, tippy-toe)

    • Biff Gordon

      Michael, this post reminds me of the conversation Justin Taylor had with Piper and MacArthur. Two men of God with very different emotional makeups. Piper has known the depths of depression, MacArthur has not. Each preaches the same truths, yet because of how God made them emotionally, each can reach people the other cannot:

    • C Michael Patton

      Biff, it could be. But I am a bit more inclined to think that we are all deeply emotional beings, but that some people learn to express them in a more transparent way both to themselves and others.

    • Clark

      Thanks for a truly honest piece about how the Christian walk truly is while we dwell on earth. I can relate to exactly what you express about what our eyes reveal about ourselves. I am headed to Saudi Arabia in a few days and hope I can continue to access your blogs.

      In His amazing grip, though I feel like I am dangling a bit at times,


    • Timothy Payne

      Great post Michael!

    • CMP, Brother you are not alone in this quest. You can articulate many of the things most of us feel or have experienced, yet words often fail. That is truly a gift from God. What this boils down to is the Sovereignty of God and how difficult it is to wrap our minds around all of the ramifications of the various instances of this single concept. Even more so, when it is a personal or painful cry from the pit of our souls.
      I really appreciate King Solomon’s observations in Ecclesiastes 11:8–10. On the surface the whole book seems to be the musings of a spoiled monarch who begged God for wisdom, and got much more than he expected. The truths that he speaks about the human condition are timeless, and relevant today. Wisdom in itself does not solve sin issues, rather it reveals to us the need of a Savior. Hang in there beloved instructor.

    • Frank Leyland (UK)

      Romans Chapter 11,verse 11:
      “… for salvation has come to the Gentiles so that Israel may be provoked unto jealousy and that therefore some of them may be saved…”

      Where do you think we are up to with this? Has it been accomplished and if so, when? Or is it yet to be fulfilled?
      Frank, UK

    • Frank Leyland (UK)

      Romans Chapter 11,verse 11:
      “… for salvation has come to the Gentiles so that Israel may be provoked unto jealousy and that therefore some of them may be saved…”

      Where do you think we are up to with this? Has it been accomplished and if so, when? Or is it yet to be fulfilled?
      Frank, UK

    • @Frank: Great question, but very biblical & theological. Myself, as Historic Pre-Mill and PD, I believe that God in Christ is saving a Jewish remnant now (Rom. 11:5), but also a remnant at the Second Coming of Christ itself, (Zech. 12 – 13 -14).

    • Frank Leyland

      Thanks Robert but you didn’t answer my question.
      And, as Paul is the Apostle to Gentliles like me, I believe that his words in Romans 11, inspired by The Lord, need to be addressed.
      Romans 11v11 is His strategy to bring about His desire concernig Israel via the Gentiles.

      Best rgds,
      Frank (UK)

    • @Frank (UK): It does appear to be “the times of the Gentiles..” (Lk. 21:24 / Rom. 11:25), so the Gentile Christians are in the ascendancy, but only just until the end of this “age”. My take at least.

    • Steven

      Keep up the good work Michael, God is using you mightily.

    • […] will change as well. I think the R's are just up in arms, perhaps this is the sign of something. Drowning Man | Parchment and Pen __________________ 1977 911S Targa 2.7L (CIS) Silver/Black 1998 Chevy S-10 4×4 Pick-Up Truck, […]

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