Beside the Waters

“He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.” Isaiah 49:10

A few years ago I was in Uganda and had a chance to take a 3 day kayak trip down the Nile River.  In the water we went from Class IV, V, and VI rapids to flat water with Hippos and Crocodiles beneath the surface.  I was so thankful for my guide on that trip – a pro kayaker from South Africa who knew the Nile river better than anyone.  He could read the rivers lines through the rapids and he knew when to tell me “tap your boat here for Hippos” or “hold your paddle here for Crocs”.  He knew where it was safe to stop and camp, and I knew that as long as he was leading me everything was probably going to be fine, and the unknown variables – the “what ifs” that went through my mind kept me alert and excited!

Imagine what that trip would be like for me, a NC girl who hadn’t seen more than Class III rapids, to have tried to kayak the Nile solo!  I probably wouldn’t have survived – actually, I know I wouldn’t have! My guide knew how to read the river and trace it’s path.  He knew how to read the lines of the rapids and the currents in the eddys.  He had a keen eye and could easily spot a “cheeky lizard having a bake” on the rocks!

What if I had known nothing about kayaking, and being on the Nile was my first ever experience?  Without training or practice, there is no way I would have been able to maneuver through some of those rapids.  It was important that I know how to paddle, roll, bail and many other things before going into a fast moving river, even with a guide.  I needed to understand the lingo, so when the guide gave me instructions, I could respond quickly and avoid danger.

What if I had stood on the shores of the Nile and allowed fear or doubt to stop me from going?  I would never have known the thrill of getting through the big rapids or the beauty of the sunsets on the Nile, watching elephants and giraffes drink on the shore as we paddled through a national park, the camaraderie built with the people you experience the river with, or falling asleep under a mosquito net after a day in the African sun, and listening to the sound of Hippos grunting (like the bullfrogs when I’m camping at home!)!!

Now, this memory of the Nile River is one that often comes to mind when making decisions.  Allow me paint a picture for you:

Have you ever had to make a decision about something that seems so exciting, but you can’t seem to shake the hesitation in your heart?

Imagine this opportunity as an amazingly attractive but fast-moving river. There is so much that looks extremely appealing about this river that you’re going to be tempted to jump right in. But once in the river, you have diminished your ability to make decisions. That river is moving so fast that it will take you where it is going. And if you haven’t carefully determined in advance whether you want to go all the places where the river flows, you’ll be in trouble. Trace the path of that river before jumping in.

Before jumping into the river, you have the ability to walk up and down it’s banks with ease. You have the ability to stick your toes in and consider what this water will be like. You can talk to other wise people who know things about this river. And sit quietly, listening for God’s voice, reading His Word and looking for confirmation on what to do next. But once you jump in, the current has a way of demanding your full attention.  The sound of the rushing waters makes it hard to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.  It’s not that you can’t make adjustments once you’re in the river; it’s just a lot harder to go a different direction once you’re in it. Some of my sweetest times with the Lord have been beside the river; it’s there that God is close, giving us discernment, wisdom and guidance.

Several verses describing God’s leading, directing and guiding beside the water have been great comfort to me:

  • “He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water“ (Isaiah 49:10).
  • “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).
  • “With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel” (Jeremiah 31:9).

A lot is talked about in the Christian world about stepping out in faith — which I believe in wholeheartedly. I believe God clearly instructs us to jump right in sometimes and trust Him to lead us through each rapid and flat, just like my skilled river guide. But that doesn’t mean God calls us to jump right into every opportunity that presents itself. My dad wisely told me once that just because a good opportunity comes along in your life, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best that God has for you.  Taking his advice led me to turn down a good job offer, and wait for the job that I was passionate about and felt led to – a call that came 3 days later!

Sometimes the greater act of faith is to let God lead us, talk to us and instruct us beside the water.

God knows the plans He has for us (Jer. 29:11), and they are good!  When you are faced with decisions that cause hesitation in your heart, take a deep breath, trace the river’s path from the banks, let the Holy Spirit speak to you and either guide you down that river or lead you to one that is the best for you!!  The river God leads you to will be the one that is best suited for you, He will not lead you to a river that you’re unprepared to navigate.  If you’re in that place – beside the river, and God is telling you to wait, soak in the chance to listen, learn and draw close to Him.  And when God says it’s time to jump in, then move forward with confidence and be ready for the most beautiful and exciting ride of your life!!  You will never regret letting Him be your guide!

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