Here’s the deal: I’m a full-on scaredy-cat. I am afraid of being criticized, ridiculed, embarrassed, and not liked by oh, everyone! This is a problem; but not a real one. It’s a lie I listen to. Who knows why I am afraid? Could be a thousand reasons. Yet, I don’t recall even one. I just know I am stuck in the muck of my own homegrown fear. Yuk. I haven’t a clue how I even got here. Guess that doesn’t matter. I’m here. I’m lost and alone and afraid. Dear God, is anyone out there? I ramble when I’m nervous, sorry. Stick with me. Blast from the way past: my memory pulled up the song Row Your Boat. It goes, “row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.” If only, right?! (Don’t leave me, I promise there’s a message to be shared.) Fortunately, I know lie vs. truth. No, I am not a scaredy-cat, I am fearless. No, I am not alone, I have Jesus. No, I am not stuck, I have setbacks. My mind is exploding with scripture and visuals and I can’t type fast enough. Here’s the visual with scripture accompaniment.
I think life is a lot like rowing a boat or better said, river rafting— you row along merrily and inevitably you hit the white water. No one is exempt. In the midst of his misery, Job declared that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7 NIV) Let’s break it down. There are three types of rowers: Those who are headed for the white water and don’t know it yet, those who are in it, and those who have made it through. So the issue is not, will you or I hit the rapids? Surely we will. The issue is, are we ready to navigate them successfully? And that is where we, as followers of Jesus, have a distinct advantage.
First of all, we are not alone in the raft. The “I will never leave you nor forsake you Jesus” is at the back of the raft with His hands on the rudder. And, by the way, He has been through this white water before. Having been tested in every white water of life, He welcomes you to come to Him in complete confidence for grace and mercy in your time of need. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)
Second, the trouble is intended to make us better, not bitter. To make us, not break us. Stop fighting the rapids—we can’t beat them. Jesus will use our challenges to expose us to our vulnerabilities and to develop our faith and character so that we will be increasingly capable and useful in the days ahead Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)
Third, if we don’t know what to do or how to respond, don’t trust your instincts. As broken people, our first instincts are usually wrong. He promises to give us the wisdom we need to navigate the rough times successfully. There isn’t a situation in life that doesn’t have a point of reference in the Bible. Not knowing what to do, begin with knowing where to go for advice—to God’s Word. Prayer is a source of wisdom as well, as we take the time to ask God for what we need. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 NIV) Staying in God’s presence long enough for Him to speak to our trouble through His Spirit often brings to mind something about the ways and will of God that helps us to know exactly how to respond.
When life has you in the white-knuckle zone, as it inevitably will, hold tight to peace and comfort and just know that He’s in the raft with you. Take a page out of His story. He’s been down this river before.