Water Running…Lessons from a Lifeboat
As many of you know, God often gives me a word picture to help me wrap my head around something I am going through. Lately, the word picture in my head is that of me and my husband being in a little, tiny lifeboat. We are bouncing on the waves of the ocean and we have a few tin cans that we managed to salvage as the big ship was going down…these are useful as we collect rainwater in them to drink.
I think we have been bouncing in this lifeboat since the summer…there are some huge things in our life that we’ve been trusting the Lord to work out for us. These things are situations that we can’t paddle hard enough or fast enough (even if we did have an oar) to get us across that “Ocean of Trial”. We are totally at the mercy of a driving wind by the Lord.
I know that all seems pretty bleak, and there are days when I am feeling pretty parched in the lifeboat and it does seem bleak on those days. But I’ve discovered something interesting from my time in this lifeboat… When we first started the journey I didn’t even realize that the raincloud above us was God in the cloud. I resented the rain (events that seemed to only make my “suffering” worse). However, I have learned from past trials not to question rain and so, though at first I was curled into a shivering ball during a rainstorm, I would resign myself to just endure it. “Holding my breath” is what I call that. It seems I have held my breath for many events of my life…Josh’s near death experience for example. But after a few rainstorms hit me this summer, I realized that God was filling my little, empty cans with fresh drinking water! Without exception, the smaller irritations in the trial that seemed like rainclouds have each turned out to show me how God is sustaining us while we are in this endless ocean of recessionary circumstances!
Watching my daughter Abbey, run in the summer also changed my perspective on rainstorms. Weather in Kentucky can be pretty hot and humid and I observed Abbey running INTO the sprinklers and spreading her arms wide to get as wet as possible as she ran past the sprinklers…I have since adopted this not only when I run, but now in a rainstorm, I am trying to remind myself, “This is the only shower you get when you are in a lifeboat…let every drop of water hit you and enjoy it!” My friend Carol has helped me with that. She told me recently that she woke up and decided to give herself a “new perspective on life”. She is choosing to look at every single thing that comes into her life as positive. She is trusting that if it doesn’t LOOK positive, that God will bring it to a positive result so she praised Him for the eventual positive result. (By the way, Carol is also in a lifeboat)
I’ve also come to recognize that since there are NO PALM TREES in the middle of the ocean, I need that cloud over us! We have been seeing God once again cover us with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (I say “again”, as it is just like the wilderness journey we had when Ben was unemployed. It’s the SAME CLOUDS!)
I’m not going to lie. It has been a very tough year for us in this economy. But God has been sustaining us and in many ways, I don’t even know how He has done this! Ben and I have been going to the prayer room regularly and we have devoted much time to prayer and even fasting. I don’t say that to puff us up. Please, read that as an element in the recipe for KNOWING you are in God’s waiting room and not a bragging point. We have sought the shelter of God’s wings and He has given it to us…in the form of a cloud that has been following us all across the ocean.
We’ve seen some amazing things on this ocean too…we’ve had some pretty big fish literally JUMP into the little boat. Most of the fish have been ones we’ve fished for and God has graciously given us those little fish. But there have been several times this year that out of nowhere a fish has jumped over the side of the little boat and surprised us. This phenomenon almost always follows a pattern. Things will look bleak, we will labor in prayer, we will CHOOSE to praise God for who He IS rather than what He can do…and we’ve resigned ourselves to lay back and rest in this lifeboat of His presence. And it seems like each time we have declared out loud, “Yet though You slay us, still we will praise You, for You are always worthy of praise just because You are God. You are worthy if you test us, You are worthy if you bless us, YOU ARE WORTHY because we know that YOU are God and Your ways are always good,” the phenomenon happens. It does not happen every time…but if it is going to happen, it is when we have been just resting in GOD…resting in knowing that HE IS GOD and that HE IS GOOD no matter what the ocean around us looks like. Oh, we can say this and not really believe it. We can pay lip service to it. But when you practice gazing upon Jesus long enough, when you get to the point where you are watching the cloud above you make animal shapes in the sky and you are content with that as your only form of entertainment…you suddenly realize that you are going in to God’s presence daily, no longer because the never-ending-trial is pushing you in there, but rather because you crave that time with God like a fish craves water…and you start to praise God just because You have discovered that He IS AMAZING…HE IS…not what He can do (which is amazing of course) but just gazing upon HIM in the beauty of His holiness…is amazing… that is when the phenomenon happens…God makes a big fish jump right out of the water and land in your boat! These fish are the “What-God-does-because-He-does-amazing-things” moments that He gives you not because you were begging Him to do it or fretting before Him, but they are the “I WILL SHOW YOU GREAT AND MIGHTY THINGS BECAUSE I KNOW I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW” kinds of things. Even recently God did this for us. And the praise session following THAT…well, let me just say, it was delicious AND nutritious!
This brings me to another thing the lifeboat sessions have been teaching me. Prayer is not a rabbit’s foot. I’ve decided that there is nothing worse than “fretting before the Lord.” It’s tempting to do – especially when you are in a lifeboat. Fretting before the Lord is another form of “holding your breath”. It’s like the cell phone commercial where the guy keeps saying, “Can you hear me now?” I’ve done it far too often and the result is the same…no peace. That is why we are told: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6,7) I think that when you first find yourself in a lifeboat – (and also at times when you’ve been in there for a long time and it seems that you are no closer to land and there have been no planes searching for you so rescue of any kind is clearly, far away), it is easy to fret before the Lord. The prayers are often the same and you find yourself repeating, “Please God…deliver us…bring us to the broad place…take us out of the pit…” But after awhile, you develop a routine of waiting and you realize that presenting your requests with thanksgiving really does give you PEACE. Being still and knowing that God IS GOD…therefore He really is working all things out for my good…makes a big difference in the middle of the ocean. It helps you recognize some wonderful things that you would never get to see otherwise. You stop thinking constantly about getting out of the lifeboat. Instead, you do look for the creative ways God is showing Himself in your life that have nothing to do with rescue but everything to do with not holding your breath. You see the cloud formations and you notice a friendly dolphin sent to entertain you…you find that there are others in lifeboats all around you and you pray with them. You share your rainwater with them and you praise God for the fish that jumped into their boat. You even get to see some of them make it to land when God blows a strong wind on their lifeboat and they speed off toward rescue. Oh how this encourages you! This is why we are told in Hebrews 3:13 to “Encourage each other as long as it is still today”. If I share my lifeboat story with others and even admit it when I need someone to pray with me, or for me, they can draw strength from that when they are having a day when they would just like to be out of the lifeboat too.
This is why I am writing this blog post. Life is hard right now but GOD IS GOOD. God IS GOOD ALL THE TIME. I can be disappointed by circumstances…I can even have my feelings hurt when God says “No” to something that looked like it was going to be my rescue so surely it would be something He would say “Yes” to…because at the end of the day, I have learned in this lifeboat that GOD IS GOOD NO MATTER WHAT – even when I am tossing on an ocean wave. HIS FAITHFULNESS is a CONSTANT. I am claiming 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 which says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” I pray that reading this may have been like me handing you my little tin can so you can have a sip of rainwater…I’m seeing a lion in the cloud overhead. Great is His faithfulness…take heart dear ocean-traveler…God is for us! God is with us…God is GOOD. Just lay back and rest. You will find you are safe in the presence of the Lord…rest.