It was a sunny day in Hawaii. Kristi and I found a remote beach with a bay that was perfect for floating on rafts.
The waves were crashing thunderously on the ocean side of the reef, but inside the bay it was peaceful. We put out into the water and laid back on our rafts. We rolled up and down on gentle tides for almost two hours, mesmerized by the soothing sounds of the surf and the beauty that God made for us. Looking up, ocean and sky filled our horizon and merged into a sea of blue where puffy white clouds were floating along with us!
As we relaxed on calm waters we were holding hands. (We were celebrating our 25th Anniversary and enjoying a gift of love from Kristi’s parents!) Kristi was meditating on Psalm 91, resting “in the shadow of the Almighty,” and I was praying one of my favorite Breath Prayers from the Bible, “Jesus embraces me in Abba’s love.”
As Kristi said in our last Soul Shepherding Devotional, “Floating in a Raft Taught me to Trust God.” We were enjoying deepening our dependence upon the Lord.
Tides and Riptides
All of a sudden, a current carried us through a channel in the rocks and we were cast out into the open sea. Then, separated from one another, we found ourselves caught in a violent riptide! I watched helplessly from my raft as Kristi was thrown off of her raft and thrashed upon a rock! Thankfully, she managed to stumble safely to shore.
Meanwhile, I was caught between ocean tides and riptides. A huge wave would throw me toward the sharp rocks and then an opposing undertow would throw me back out to sea. Back and forth I was heaved. With each wave I paddled furiously trying to get back to shore but I couldn’t overcome the riptides! It was all I could do to resist being cast far out into the ocean. A couple of times I was able to paddle to the mouth of the bay, but I couldn’t get passed the endless rock wall separating me from land.
I was getting tired fighting the waves. I could see Kristi on the shore so concerned for me, just as helpless as I had been when she had been thrashed into the reef. I knew I was in danger, but I stayed calm because I also knew that Jesus was with me and I kept praying for him to help me.
Once more a riptide carried me out into the ocean. Then I caught a wave and paddled as hard and as fast as I could to get to the mouth of the bay. As the next opposing riptide came I grabbed hold of a rock and held on for dear life! I kept holding on even as the next wave pounded me against the reef. Finally, I found the narrow channel through the reef and got back into the bay and to the shore.
What a sweet hug Kristi and I enjoyed on the beach as we thanked God for rescuing us!
Did Jesus Abandon Us?
One minute Kristi and I were floating peacefully on rafts, praying and placing ourselves in Jesus’ arms of love, and the next we found ourselves caught in dangerous riptides. What happened to our safe harbor? Did Jesus let go of us? Were we wrong to trust him so completely?
No! Jesus didn’t abandon us in the riptides! He was there with us, holding us in the Father’s strong arms of love — just as we had asked him to do before we realized that we were in danger, just as he did for the disciples when they were caught in a life threatening storm at sea, just as he does for you.
But if Jesus is holding us then how is it that we sometimes find ourselves in danger?
Waking Up to a War!
Because we’re in a war! We need to be careful not to be lulled into naively thinking that when we’re enjoying God’s gentle waves of love we’re safe from harm. Being in prayer doesn’t exempt us from spiritual danger — it engages us in the battle with evil!
Jesus himself was attacked by Satan — even in times of intense prayer in which he was submitting himself to the Father, like on his 40-days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness and on his night watch in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Fight the Good Fight
Jesus said that he is our Good Shepherd and he brings God’s life to us, but Satan comes to us to steal, kill, and destroy that life (John 10:10).
So the Apostle Paul said at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7) and again and again he urged the young pastor Timothy and all of us too, “Fight the good fight… Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 1:18, 6:12).
To fight the good fight is to stand — to stand against Satan’s lies, accusations, and attacks, to stand submitted to the Lord and trusting him. In the visible situation we may be struggling adrift at sea or thrashed against the rocks, but at the same time we can be held by Jesus in the Kingdom of the Heavens.
“We live [or paddle on a raft!] by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).