2001 will forever be referred to as the “Year of Hell” for me – I absolutely now see that I needed that “Year of Hell” to finally bend at the knee but while I am incredibly thankful for the horrid experiences of that year because it led me to Him, I will also be the first one to say that I would prefer not to have to go back and do it again.
During that year, a wonderful book was published and I read it. Leif Enger released Peace Like a River and I remember being riveted by his poetic prose, his descriptive beauty, and his ability to describe the frailty of the human spirit.
I was not yet a follower of Jesus when I read it and remember reading the scene in which the father wrestles with God and thinking it was such a strange one. At the time, I had not read the story of Jacob* so had no idea of the parallelism that Enger was trying to portray.
In a nutshell, the father had a 16 year old son on the run from the law. I don’t remember the crime but he lived in the woods and the father and sister would provide food and other necessities for him. Eventually, the father began to think they were not doing what was righteous and yet, it was his son. He knew the young boy would suffer and there is not a parent in the world who wants that for their child.
Yet Jesus was God’s son. Alas, He had to watch Jesus suffer so we could be forgiven of those transgressions that make us unrighteous in His eyes.
It was a very high price.
Now I understand why the father in Peace Like a River was wrestling with God all through the night – his disobedience was causing unrest within his soul. He had been anxious, worried, scared. He awoke the next morning with a feeling of complete serenity – it was as if the go-around with God was just what was needed to quiet the tumultuous waters that were raging within.
Though it would be incredibly difficult, he was going to choose the path of righteousness and turn his son in to the authorities.
Sad? Absolutely. But obedient? Yes.
While studying Breaking Free this week, one of my lessons was entitled “To Experience God’s Peace.” Beth Moore instructed us to read Isaiah 48:18 and then it all clicked for me – nine years later, I remembered Peace Like a River and finally understood why the father had wrestled so intensely with God.
Slow learner? I’ll never deny it.
And yet, Beth tells us that “When God used the analogy of the river, He described a peace that can be retained while life twists, turns, and rolls over boulders. To have peace like a river is to have security and tranquility of heart and mind while meeting many bumps and unexpected turns on life’s journey through change. Peace is submission to a trustworthy Authority, not resignation from all activity. Remember, however, any activity that cannot be brought under the umbrella of God’s authority will prove to be a source of turmoil and exhaustion.”
Can I get an amen? Everything that I have done “not under God’s umbrella” has caused me horrid turmoil and exhaustion.
If we choose to live a life of righteousness, choose to follow God’s commands and live the way that is pleasing to Him, we are going to have peace like a river.
It doesn’t mean that life will be easy and calm – oh, heavens no. It just means that when those rapids hit, you have a strong raft that will keep you afloat.
May we all, through our obedience and attempt to be righteous, have peace like a river this week.
* To read more about Jacob, read Genesis 32:23-34 AND a wonderful book by Anita Diamont entitled The Red Tent. It’s fabuloso.