Canoeing is right at the tippy top of my list of favorite things to do. Nothing beats sliding through the water on a hot summer day to the tune of splashing paddles and the lap of water. I’ve canoed on lakes, bays and rivers and I can tell you this much. I would heaps rather paddle down a river than up a river. The peaceful outdoor adventure of a leisurely downstream float takes on more of the look of a focused effort not to have a stroke on the return trip upstream. Forget looking at the birds and feeling the breeze, you won’t even feel your arms much less a breeze! Paddling upstream in a stiff current is no joke, and takes a ton of focus and energy.
Seasons in life ebb and flow a lot like currents. Sometimes we find ourselves in an upstream situation so absorbed in nothing more than the effort to move forward, that we neglect the very things which will keep us on track in the process. There are times when my brain is so muddled with whatever my current problem is, I can’t even focus to pray about it, much less read my Bible and hear God speak to me. The obvious temptation is to neglect our relationship with God until it’s more convenient. That is just as silly as it would be for me to toss my paddle overboard while trying to row upstream simply because it is making my arms hurt. Very little is going to get accomplished without it! Here are three easy things to do when facing a stiff current, and there is a need to avoid spiritual drifting.
- Memorize a verse that applies to the situation, and pray the verse. Praying is just talking to God, but sometimes even putting into words what we need or are trying to say is difficult or impossible to do. Find a simple verse that speaks to your heart about your problem, memorize it, and tell it to God. He knows the problem anyway, and He knows our weakness. He will understand that heart’s cry and the need you are trying express. A couple of my favorites are: Psalm 56:3 “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Philippians 4:19 “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
- Feed your mind and heart with good stuff. It is really tempting to just turn our brains off when they are working overdrive in one area of our lives. Retreating to excessive television watching or internet browsing may seem like great mental relief, but check the substance of the stuff your putting into your brain. An oar made of foam isn’t much use in rapids. Spending too much time dwelling on the problem will do you no good either. I’ve heard it put it this way, “garbage in, garbage out.” If all you are putting in is worry, anxiety, anger, or negativity, than don’t be surprised if that’s what takes over your mind/heart and comes out in your actions. Spending a little time reading God’s Word daily can help enormously…but suppose your mind is just too distracted to absorb Levitical law or Paul’s theology? Just a few verses out of Psalms or Proverbs can help settle your mind on something positive, and they are easy books to read. If just a bite of something good is all you can handle, take the bite!
- Music speaks to the heart when little else will, so listen to good stuff. One way to nab a quick break without drifting in the middle of a row upstream is to jab your oar strait down into the river bed and hold it there (or you can grab an overhanging branch and pray no giant spiders fall on you). I see good music as just that, a way to keep from loosing ground, and to keep pointed in the right direction. If you can’t pray, and you can’t make yourself focus on the Bible, than find some uplifting music. Music has way of talking to the heart, and speaking to our emotions. It can be a powerful help to keep your heart on track. This song in particular has been a huge help and encouragement to me through the last two months of watching my little girl struggle so hard just to do a basic thing like breathing. The first verse in particular keeps me grounded through the daily round of hospital trips, medical reports and never ending worries.
“In Christ Alone”
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Above all, I think it’s important to remember that seasons of life are just that, seasons. Nothing lasts for forever and the thing that threatens to sap every bit of your strength now, will be a thing of the past eventually. One thing I know, just sitting in a current will make you loose a lot of ground quickly, and will spin you out of control. Your progress may be slow, but keep paddling forward!
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.