We can’t control the current of the river of life, but we can control how we swim in it.
Movement is a sign of life. A heart beating is a signal of a new life. When the heart stops moving, it means the life has ended. We also use a figurative lack of movement to signal something is dead, like a “dead-end job,” meaning, there’s no path to advance one’s career. In life, we have movements that happen to us, like growing older every day. We also dictate our own movements, like whether we exercise or not.
It’s like the adage by Pastor Charles Swindoll: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.” This truth makes the point that our decisions and responses dramatically affect our lives.
However, there’s also the point that some things are beyond our control. Take the Holocaust, for example. Millions of people were murdered, and it did not matter how they responded before they were shot or gassed or starved: they still died. But whereas some people in the concentration camps exhibited only negative emotions, others exhibited joy and hope. Their outside circumstances were the same, but their internal environments were different.
A Natural Analogy
Recently, I visited a location on the Missouri River where there was a rock dike that provided a safe harbor for a riverboat. The current of the Missouri River was strong and fast. At the entrance to the harbor where water flowing in the current met the rock dike, water was forced into the harbor area. Whirlpools were created. In addition, there was a slow upstream current on the harbor side of the dike. Eventually the water that was in the harbor made it back into the main current at the second opening.
When we are flowing in the current, things are progressing well with minimum inhibition. Even large logs are carried downstream. But sometimes we hit a hard place. The next thing we know, we feel like we’re going in circles, repeating the same things with no real forward progression to show for our steps. Then there are times when we are moving, albeit slowly, but still moving. We think we are making progress, but later on we discover we’re going the wrong direction. Fortunately, there’s still a way to get moving the right way and make it back into the main current. However, we come out in a different place than where we entered.
"A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)
Sometimes God takes us somewhere faster than we ever imagined could be possible. And sometimes God takes us on a detour. But something that stood out as God was sharing this revelation with me is that the whirlpools and upstream movement happen in a protected place; they don’t happen in the main current. When God has something He wants you to work on or a difficult thing He wants you to go through, you’re taken to the side. You’re still in the water, still moving, but you’re not overpowered by the mainstream current.
Granted, hitting the rock and the ensuing turbulent waters does take place in the main current. But after you emerge from the rapids, you either go back into the mainstream current, or you enter the harbor.
"This is what the Lord says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls….'" Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
In the harbor I visited, dead items like tree limbs and plastic water bottles spun in the whirlpools multiple times before they headed downstream, only to then be caught up in the slow upstream current. When they reached the whirlpools, the outside edge of the whirlpools sent them back downstream, and they eventually made it out the second opening and back into the main river. It was a long process.
The geese, however, just swam between the whirlpools. Though they had swirling water all around them, their movement allowed them to pass relatively uninhibited. Of course, at other times they flew over the water much faster than the river’s current.
You can move and influence where you go in life, or you can remain inactive and be influenced by the movements around you.
An argument can be made that there is rest in the main current—you can just lie there floating and you will move forward. On the other hand, there is rest in the slower moving waters, a greater chance to take stock of what’s around you and in you. Rivers are ancient paths on the Earth. Similarly, God has provided the Bible, His Living Word, as a roadmap for the ancient paths that are the good way He wants us to walk in. And our gracious Father allows us multiple opportunities to get it right.
Jeremiah 6:16 ends with, “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
God wants us to walk in the good way and find rest for our souls; it’s up to us to actually “walk in the good way.” It takes conscious effort. And when God brings up an issue in our lives he wants us to address, we can either deliberately move through the lesson or be stubborn and stay set in our ways, which results in us spinning in circles.
If you feel like you’re going nowhere in life, that’s a clue. If you can’t keep your head above water—that’s a clue. If you find yourself in a repeating cycle….clue. These are clues that something is not right in your life. You need to get with Jesus and seek Him to find out what He wants you to do—and then do it.
"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
When you don’t know what to do or how to get out of the mess you’re in, seek God. He’ll provide the path because He is the path. If you’re having trouble seeking God, then reach out to someone who can assist you with discovering how you should move to get in right relationship with God. Whether things are going smoothly or you’re on a wild ride, know that God is directing your steps and flowing your life to coincide with the River of Life.
So step into the current
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