By Bill Mankin
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isa 43:1-3a, NRSV)
For more than 30 years, my outdoor passion has been whitewater rafting. The beauty of God’s canyons and rivers, the joy of wilderness camping, the camaraderie of friends, the adrenaline rush of running a rapid all make rafting a unique experience. Recently, I ran the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument with half a dozen friends. The water level was very high, near record levels, and the rapids were huge, looking not at all like I had run them at lower water levels. They were exciting, but frightening. I have said that running white water is a very prayerful experience—there are prayers of petition upstream and prayers of thanksgiving downstream. That was true especially of these large and dangerous rapids; I took great comfort in the promise of Isaiah, “…the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”
In many ways, the rapids are a metaphor for life. Much of our life runs smoothly, like the calm stretches of the river. But for most of us, there are times when we hit the rapids and the waters threaten to overwhelm us. It might be the loss of a job, a divorce, a serious diagnosis, the addiction of a loved one. Remember, you are never alone in the water. Whatever it is that threatens us, God has promised to be there with us. As Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.” If we will just rely on God, God will see us through, even if the struggle does not end in this life.
The biggest safety rule on the river is “Always wear your life jacket.” In the rough waters of life, we should surround ourselves with the life jacket of prayer.
On my trip, I had a friend along who is younger, bigger, and stronger than I, and he rowed us safely through some of the biggest rapids. God works this way in life as well; God’s help in times of trouble often comes in the form of people who are committed to acting on God’s behalf. As Christians, we must always remember that we act as the hands and feet of Christ to our fellow travelers on life’s journey. Rely on your godly friends, and be such a friend to others.
Prayer: Loving God, we give you thanks that you never leave us alone. You are with us in the calm stretches of life as well as the turbulent times. Teach us to trust. Let us be your agents of help to those around us. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
Ministry and Mission Coach