I was canoeing on a lake in NSW just recently. All things being equal, canoeing on flat water is not difficult. Rhythmical strokes left then right with the paddle make for seamless forward motion.
It’s wonderfully peaceful moving through the water, passing waterbirds, reeds and water lilies, the quiet splash of the paddle for company, not a worry in the world.
But as I discovered on a lake effected by winds and currents, boats and skiers, things aren’t always equal.
It only took a crosswind, the wake of a larger boat, a change in the current or even my being distracted to bump me off course.
My rhythmical left and right paddle strokes were then replaced with strong left, left, left strokes locking in all my muscles to bring the nose of the canoe around and put me back on course.
Inattention from me in not responding promptly to a change in my direction, meant I lost sight of my destination and much effort was needed to return me to my proper course.
My experience of life with God is very similar.
With my heart set on the things of Jesus, rhythmical reading of the word and time connecting with Jesus in prayer, I experience more peaceful forward progress. Peaceful doesn’t mean easy. It would be naive to expect that life will be easy just because I pray. But with Jesus as my focus, there can be peace even in the midst of life’s challenges.
My life circumstances, worry, sin and a preoccupation with my own ‘stuff’, can knock me off course as quickly as a crosswind on the lake. In the canoe it’s ‘left, left, left’ with extra force on my paddle to bring the nose about so my destination remains in sight. It’s entirely my effort and skill that restores me to the correct course.
Praise God that when life challenges me, when sin or worry or life circumstances threaten to distract and divert me from God’s course, it’s not all up to me to bring restoration.
Whilst I respond with prayer, time in the word and community with Jesus, it’s not my strength or my effort that sees my course restored. I can pray up a storm and use all the ‘right’ words BUT my own effort is in vain.
It is the one to whom I pray and upon whom my heart is fixed that maintains my course.