by Bruce W. Durbin
"God is with thee in all that thou doest."
Have you ever crossed a river? No, not using a bridge, but rather venturing into the rushing current using only your legs? As you step into the flowing water, the current will attempt to carry you downstream. The rocks, made smooth by countless centuries of rushing water, are slippery and your footing is uncertain.
As you look down into the rushing water, while you're standing still, the movement of the water, sweeping around your legs, invites you to follow the flowing water downstream. You become entranced with the flowing water. The water's movement forms multiple patterns as it moves effortlessly over rocks. You try to see into the deep pools of darkened water. All around you, there is the motion of the flowing water.
As you move further across the river, you reach a point where it is as dangerous to return to the shore from which you abandoned, as it is to continue on your journey to the other side.
As you stand still in the moving water considering which way to venture, the water rushes on. In order to start your journey from the middle of the river to one bank or the other, you must re-start the precarious journey. The current has not subsided and will attempt to carry you downstream. The rocks remain smooth and slippery. Your footing will still be uncertain.
You have ventured into a flowing river. Now, the question forms in your mind:
"How long can I remain in the current of a rushing river, contemplating which way to venture?"
Excluding the possibility that the water will be miraculously stopped upstream from you, ceasing the flow of the water and creating dry land, you will be forced to either attempt to reach the far shore or the shore that you left. Staying in the middle of the river is not an option. Now, the question forms in your mind:
"Why did I start this venture?"
As we walk through this life, rivers often appear in front of us. These rivers can assume many forms, to include a new job, relocation to another geographic area, and/or merely talking to someone about God.
Bursting with a belief in our own strength, there is often the tendency to jump into the river with both feet and immediately begin our journey across the river without consulting God.
Initially, our own strength will see us to the middle of the river, where our strength begins to weaken and where we begin to have doubts about reaching the other side. We become stuck in the middle of a flowing river that seeks to sweep us away.
As the person that attempted to physically cross a river asked, "Why did I start this venture?", when we are confronted with the realization that we have not relied on God, we ask, "Why did I start this venture without God?"
When the Children of Israel were fleeing the Egyptians, they met a large body of water (the Red Sea) blocking their escape. No doubt, someone in the group shouted, "We can easily cross this sea. Put on your swimming suits and let's start swimming." No doubt, others shouted, "We can build a ship. Start gathering some wood and start building." No doubt, the majority of the group merely sighed and gasped, "We're doomed. Let's just quit and surrender to the Egyptians."
Before the Children of Israel even began to wade into the Red Sea, God prepared the way. As Exodus 14:21-22 relates:
"And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left."
When we see someone else crossing a raging "river", there is often the rationale, "If they can do it, then I can do it too." In our journey through this life, God places some rivers in front of some and different rivers in front of others. While we may share the same Heavenly Father, we don't necessarily share the same journey and we aren't required to cross the same "rivers."
While the Children of Israel were directed to cross the Red Sea, the pursuing Egyptians were not following God's will. What happened when the Egyptians went against God and tried to cross the Red Sea on their own strength?
The outcome was entirely different than the outcome for the Children of Israel. As Exodus 14:27-28 details:
"And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them."
Have you ever looked out of your window, seeing a bright sunny sky, and then went for a walk, leaving your umbrella home? Everything is fine, until a few clouds gather some friends, who gather some more friends, who gather more friends, until the entire sun is blotted out and the entire sky is filled with darkened clouds.
While you continue your walk, the clouds grow darker, a few flashes of lightning brighten the skies and roars of thunder reverberate. Suddenly, just as you wonder why you didn't bring your umbrella, the sky opens up and a virtual downpour of rain soaks you instantly.
While the appearance of a river in front of your path provides you with the opportunity to seek God's guidance, a sudden downpour provides you with no opportunity to seek cover.
In addition to making the necessary preparations (listening to God) prior to crossing a river or other obstacle, it is necessary to make preparations for the unexpected downpour.
In Matthew 7:24-25, the importance of building a firm foundation is related:
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."
Anyone who has built a house will most likely agree that building a house requires time and, usually, a significant amount of patience. As a house is not built instantaneously, our relationship with God is not built instantaneously: It requires time.
As we build our relationship with God, He oversees the construction process. He knows what areas of our lives need to be remodeled or enhanced. He knows what trials and tests will strengthen the fiber of our spiritual life. He knows what blessings will strengthen our faith. God builds our spiritual lives with the omnipotent knowledge of what it is that we need.
When the unexpected rains of trials, tests, and problems fall on us, we can take refuge in the relationship that we've built with God:
As the flood waters of despair creep higher and higher, we can take comfort in the faith of God's goodness and love.
As the winds of doubt blow against our faith and hope, we can rest assured that God's hand is upon us; we will not fall.
Our relationship with God keeps us safe from the rivers we see and the rains that come unexpected.
What of the one that is unprepared? What of the one that has not built a daily relationship with God?
As Matthew 7:26-27 details:
"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."
The foolish man builds his life on things that have no substance. The foolish builds his life without a relationship with God:
When the rains of trials, tests, and problems come unexpected upon the foolish man, he has no relationship to provide comfort and strength.
When the flood waters of sorrow and despair creep higher and higher, the foolish man has no comfort; only fear that he will drown.
As the winds of doubt blow against the foolish man's false idols of strength (i.e., education, friends, wealth, health, his own hand), the hand of God is not upon him; there is nothing to sustain the foolish man.
The foolish man constructed his life according to what he "wanted", not according to God's desire. Whether the disaster comes in the youth of the foolish man, or whether the disaster comes in the latter years of the foolish man, or whether the disaster comes after death, the appearance of a disaster (God's judgment) is certain.
Living a Christian life, in a world rushing with immorality, is similar to crossing a river: Both seek to sweep you away.
For the rivers that appear in your path, pray to God.
For the rains that come unexpected, pray to God.
Bruce W. Durbin is a freelance writer, whose articles have featured on many Christian online publications. He is also the author of Almost Heaven and Almost Hell (www.iuniverse.com and www.barnesandnoble.com).