I recently wrote about a friend who has left his marriage and is unsure what he’ll do next. I haven’t been able to meet with him yet, and even when I do there’s no guarantee he’ll return. Meanwhile, my wife and I are talking with his wife, whom we’ve known even longer, and care for very much. She’s devastated. And we’re in emergency prayer mode. It seems as if her life has blown off course. And yet…
I studied sailing in college and learned that, while it’s fun to “run with the wind,” it doesn’t happen very often. More often, the wind is against you. And you can’t sail directly into the wind, period. So you have to tack, which means to repeatedly “come about,” making lurching 90° turns that cause your sail to careen from one side of the boat to the other, sometimes sweeping unwary passengers overboard. Sailing is not a spectator sport. And neither is marriage.
Or life. Most of the time you have to zigzag, responding to constantly changing conditions, executing extreme turns, ducking the sail, and enlisting the help of everyone you can. Challenging? Yes! But the alternatives are worse. Either you, 1) luff—just sit there, dead in the water, as the wind passes you by, or, 2) capsize—get blown over and turn “turtle.” Righting the boat when that happens is possible, but very difficult. And you can’t do it alone.
Right now, our friend’s wife feels like she’s alone. But she isn’t. We and others are ready to help her right the ship. And more importantly, God is ready.
Romans 8:28 says, “God causes all things to work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” Note that it doesn’t say God “designs” or “pre-plans” all things to work together—this is no promise of “smooth sailing”—rather, it says he causes all things to work together.
I have a friend named Larry who founded a powerful prison ministry. He did this by, 1) murdering a man, 2) receiving a life sentence, 3) serving a decade of hard time, 4) finding Christ, 5) becoming an in-prison chaplain, 6) receiving a gubernatorial pardon, and 7) building a ministry that has changed the lives of thousands. God didn’t say, “Hey, I think I’ll have Larry kill someone so he can build a wonderful outreach.” Rather, he took Larry’s terrible choices and, once Larry turned his life over to him, “caused” those choices to “work together for good.”
God can cause whatever happens in your life, your wrong choices or those of others, to get you back on-course, and to change the world for good. So how do you make that happen? Just love him (truly love him–which means letting him navigate), and the “called according to his purpose” part will happen.
So, whether you’re struggling to get your own ship or a friend’s ship back on-course, there’s scary, exhilarating sailing ahead.
All hands on deck.