God Guides Us through Turbulence

Isaiah 41:13-20

From my days in business, I’ve been involved in a number of, what might be called, “team building activities”, gatherings where you get to have some fun with fellow colleagues outside of the workplace.  The intention is to build a bond between members of the team which hopefully would translate to a spirit of collaboration at work. They have ranged from mountain climbing to biking to even dance lessons at Arthur Murray studios. Some were more effective, and fun, than others.


On one occasion, a national sales force that I belonged to all convened at the border of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee for whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. Whitewater rafting, particularly along the area of rapids that we were traversing, required much collaboration.  This is the same river where the movie Deliverance was filmed!


On the rafts that we were using, six of us sat on the outer ridge, three on each side, with a professional whitewater rafting guide between us, on the back side of the raft, leading from behind.  This guide’s task was to meticulously guide the team of six as they navigated their way, on the raft, along the river, through raging rapids, keeping the raft (and team) from hitting the rocks and going over sudden falls.


Before starting, the guide had to first explain the lexicon, the words he would be barking out as we make our way.  He had to illustrate the different ways that we were to hold the paddle and stroke, how we needed to work in unison, and what to do if someone got thrown from the raft.  Once the journey started, he was then clear and decisive with his instruction. And most importantly, he needed to be reassuring to us that if we follow his commands, we had nothing to fear.


This experience came to mind for me as I was reading today’s first reading.  The opening line seemed like a parallel to what the guide told us at the beginning –if you listen to my instruction you have nothing to worry about. God says, “I am the Lord your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, ‘fear not, I will help you.”


On the raft, we knew that if we followed the guide’s instruction, he would deliver us to safety because he knew this section of the river like the back of his hand.

God delivers solutions to us every day.  If we have a need today that has been hereto for unmet, we need to listen for his next instruction.


Look at Jesus' last words in today's Gospel reading from Matthew: “Whoever has ears ought to hear” In other words, "Heed carefully what you hear!" God has already been telling us how to negotiate through the rapids in our lives, and tame them. He has sent us solutions that are guaranteed to deliver us from our anxieties. But sometimes, we don't like God's solutions to our problems!


Some examples:

God's solution to divided relationships is for us to do good to the person who has sinned against us, even if they don't repent. That's what Jesus did as he died even for those who never accept his mercy.

God's solution to financial problems is tithing (donating 10% of our total income) even if it seems that we cannot afford to give that much.

God's solution to the mountain of misery we're enduring from physical illness or a bad situation in life is to praise him in all circumstances and to offer up our sufferings as a penance for someone else's sins.

God's solution to unfair treatment is to love our enemies, do good to those who persecute us, go the extra mile when something is demanded from us, and let go when someone takes from us what isn’t theirs.

Each of these solutions is the harder way to go, but each delivers the best results.  By bridging divisions we gain renewed friendships. By giving generously we discover that we cannot outdo God in generosity. By imitating Christ, misery is converted to faith and then joy. Unfair treatment no longer bothers us.  God as our guide in the face of the most vicious, turbulent waters, says, "Fear not, I will help you" and our faith tells us this is true, even before we see anything improve.

So our prayer today could sound like this: “Dear Lord, I will not fear. I’ve heard your instructions through your scriptures.  I know the journey ahead is not on a calm lake, it’s on a turbulent river.  Help me tune out the noise of the rush of water surrounding me.  Continue to guide me through my every turn.  I will follow your guidance even when it may not seem to be the easiest route, and I will bless your name all the way as I make this journey, forever and ever.  Amen.


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