“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Recently, trusting the Lord has been a lesson I am relearning again. As I work through a new devotion this week, the topic is, “trusting God, or pleasing Him?” I am in a constant struggle to understand the balance in my own life. When I arrive a point where I feel content in leaving it up to God, I freak out that I’m not longer pleasing Him because I’m not doing enough for Him. This can all too quickly spiral into attempting to control everything, and the anxiety of not relying on my savior follows it. As I read this verse there was a strong mental image that came to mind. As I have said before, one of the biggest reasons I adore the outdoors is the many life metaphors it brings with it. I mean, the Creator designed and formed it, so it follows that His love and lessons are all throughout His creation.
This verse makes me think of rafting. So often, as a guide, you must repeatedly remind your guests that you have control of the raft. You have studied the river, and you are the one that will let them know when to paddle, how many strokes to take, and in which direction. Even though you inform them how to paddle, how to hold the paddle, review the safety and dangers, and they’ve paid you to take them down, they forget to trust once you hit the river. Their need for control and instincts can take over, resulting in either paddling when told not to, or just freezing up when the raft enters a rapid.
The guide knows the river like the back his hand. He knows how many stroke’s he’s going to need to pass that rock. He’s also the one that has the stick in the water the entirety of the trip, always prepared for what’s to come. He has the ability to look at what is ahead, know the needs and wants of his guests and maintain control of the raft. As the guest, you’re not facing the guide, you don’t observe all that he does on the trip. All you see is the water before you. In the flat water, there’s not much going on. Maybe it’s easier to trust for you in that stretch of the journey. Maybe you get anxious and want to do something. Maybe the head wind is incredibly strong, and it seems like you’re in this place forever, trying to understand the purpose, and anxiously awaiting the guide to shout a command. You may even think to yourself,
“Surely, he’s aware that there’s a rock up there, he’s getting awfully close, why doesn’t he tell us to do something, ok that was way too close for comfort.”
Then the rapid finally hits, you see the wall of water. You can feel it sloshing up against the raft and then you’re face. You see all the rocks, and you hear the command from the back of the boat. At first, it’s an all forward, and at what seem like the most crucial moment, he tells you to stop. It makes no sense to you, why aren’t you supposed to do anything? You don’t see everything the guide is doing after he assures you it’s best to stop paddling. At the end of it all, the water is calm again and he tells you to take a few more paddle strokes.
Too often my life feels like a never-ending trip down the river, except, I’m not the guide. When it comes to my life, I don’t know what’s best, I don’t understand the river, I don’t know why the guide does what He does. In the seasons of flat water, I feel stagnant, like I should be doing and accomplishing more for God. And I can’t comprehend why it feels like I’m in the uneventful season for so many years. When my life hits the rapids, the all forward is exhausting and seems impossible, yet the guide keeps calling it, guiding me straight to wall of water that is just waiting to engulf me. As another rock pops up besides, I want to paddle my little heart, but he only calls a forward one. I don’t agree but I do as he says, and we slide right by it.
The easiest way to please your guide is to trust them. Trust their commands and their ability to guide your raft. Sometimes that’s a paddle stroke or two, and sometimes it’s doing absolutely nothing. Coming back to Hebrews, the same applies to our lives and to our God. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. So, when you’re so anxious to do something, anything. Or you swear you’re not going to make it through that rapid with only two paddles strokes, trust Him. Trust that His stick is in the water, that He has you headed for that wall of water for a reason, that He’s in control. And sometimes simply trusting, not paddling, is the best way to please God.