We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 NLT
We recently completed a long-anticipated cruise on the Danube, and there were many blessings God gifted us in this journey. The portion we traveled meandered through picturesque green hillsides peppered with vineyards, animals, and even castles tucked into the landscape.
Overgrown trees and bushes along the shoreline provided nesting places for the ducks, geese, and swans that graced our view. Every so often, the landscape changed as we passed quaint historic European villages built right on the river’s edge. Their quintessential skylines were created by steeples of cathedrals and churches built long before our country was founded. When we reached the bustling waterfronts of the larger cities, the water was so high we sunk low in our seats to go under the bridges.
To transition to lower parts of the river, locks replaced the once dangerous falls and rapids of the unexplored Danube. These locks, originally built to allow safe shipping of goods and services to each village, now also provided travelers with a smooth commute. From our perspective, the Danube was a peaceful, calm, river. We didn’t see dangerous rapids, tight turns, or even that beautiful color of blue described in the work of Johann Strauss until we took a couple of side trips
The first excursion was on a small boat that took us through narrow valleys shadowed by massive rocky cliffs. The guide described the dangers of this area and the many accidents that had occurred over the years. He said, even when the river appears calm on the surface, the turbulence below is enough to unexpectedly pull a swimmer or small vessel under. This tour ended at a historic Abbey nestled in the mountains at the last calm part of the river. Beyond the Abbey, the river began bubbling through the rocks as the landscape descended into a valley.
On the second excursion, we rode bicycles and toured parts of the river that were shallow and narrow. Riding on shaded bike paths, we passed inviting beaches and witnessed areas where the sunlight danced on the water. That is the only time we witnessed the beautiful deep blue color.
No matter where we went on the Danube, God’s beauty and lessons surrounded us. The main one that stands out to me is how we were protected from the dangers of the river because of the route taken by our captain. Our vessel was large, unable to navigate the narrow parts of the river, and needed the transitions of the locks to safely descend to the lower parts of the river. Without them, we would not have survived.
In life, I wish I could always travel that safe protected route where transitions are scheduled and most of my challenges can be predicted. However, many times, I find myself on the river where dangerous undertows unexpectedly pull me below the water’s surface, or the turbulent rapids toss and rock my world. During these times my focus is only on the immediate moment. Yet, as I navigate through these exhausting hardships, I know the Lord is my captain, and he gently guides me through these challenging times. It’s only when I reach the other side when the sun comes out and dances on the water and I witness the wonder of the blue. It’s almost like God is giving me that same promise of the rainbow after the flood.
When difficulties multiply around me, help me to hold onto you. You see me even when I am exhausted and feel like I am drowning. You are my Captain, who navigates me safely through the rapids, and you are the rope that holds me above water in the undertow. You are my source of hope. Help me realize that it’s through these adversities that I grow. When the sun comes out, and life settles down, You help me heal. Then You gift me with your goodness and surround me with the blessings of the journey. Amen
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