“For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Corinthians 16:9 (ESV)
Adversity is a fact of life, even in the best of times. I love this verse penned by the Apostle Paul when he was in Ephesus, because it encourages us to keep things in perspective. Just when things seem perfect the phone rings, it starts to rain, something breaks, someone is disgruntled or you have a health scare. Open doors of blessing are often accompanied by adversity. But in spite of the opposition Paul ran into there in Ephesus, he was unshaken in his resolve, made the most of his opportunity, actually stayed there two years and planted arguably the greatest church in all of his journeys.
The Apostle Peter who had the amazing opportunity of living with and observing Jesus’ handling of adversity wrote “since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had and be ready to suffer.” (1 Peter 4:1) Dealing successfully with adversity, especially when it seems to come at the most inopportune times, requires having an attitude or mindset that is always prepared to overcome it. Jesus himself said “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
That kind of overcoming attitude is absolutely essential if we are going to navigate the winds and waves of life. And no where have I learned that more graphically than as a neophyte sailor. Less than a month ago I was in the Caribbean on a sailboat. My cousin and I rented a thirty-two foot boat for eight days and set off for the bucket list adventure that even Jack Sparrow would envy. Our dream was to spend sun-kissed days sailing and snorkeling while exploring the history rich British Virgin Islands. Columbus discovered them on his second voyage in 1493 and they are where all the infamous pirates roamed and raided ships for centuries in the Sir Francis Drake Channel.
It did not take me long to realize however, that even though I was on vacation I had better not lay aside my overcoming attitude because being in paradise does not necessarily guarantee paradise being in you. Navigating a sailboat in unfamiliar waters, six foot rollers and steady 15-20 knot winds has a way of bringing that reality home very quickly, especially for an inland water sailor. In spite of wide open seas there are still pirates of adversity lurking there to despoil even the most virtuous sailor of his dream vacation.
One stark realization was that spring break makes March the busiest month of the year for sailing in the BVI. There were sailboats, catamarans and huge yachts of all sizes and shapes everywhere and that made for stiff competition in claiming a mooring ball to anchor at night, no matter which island cove you choose as your destination. Unfortunately it made everyday a race to the next island anchorage, because if your boat had not tied up to the rope floating from a mooring ball by 11 am you were out of luck.
The first day, with a late start from the marina we arrived at Norman Island, where Robert Lewis Stevenson, cast his novel Treasure Island, at five o’clock. God had mercy on us and heard our prayers and we found one mooring ball unclaimed, it was literally a miracle. The next day we did a short sail to another side of the island and claimed a ball by 10 am in a beautiful setting right near a reef for snorkeling. Praise God.
The third day was a different story. We had mapped out a long sail, half-way up the channel to a picturesque spot on Cooper Island. Leaving at day break we hoped to arrive by eleven, sailing conditions were favorable and we reached the Island as planned. But by then the weather had taken a turn for the worse with dark cloudy skies, pouring rain and 20 knot winds blowing off shore. We immediately began the hunt among all the anchored boats for a mooring ball. We were waved off the first two mooring balls we found by someone on shore shouting that they were reserved.
After a somewhat frantic search we finally found one ball unoccupied. As I approached it my one man crew was on the bow with a six foot aluminum pole ready to hook the rope. Somehow the pole got wrenched from his hand and started floating away. With no pole we could not secure a ball. He made his way back to the stern where I was and we decided he would have to take the dinghy to chase it down. In the rain, wind and panic of the moment the dinghy rope got caught in the prop of the dinghy outboard. Before long the dinghy was floating away with him in it, the pole was floating away with our chance for a mooring and my hope was floating away as I sought to keep the sailboat from running aground or hitting another boat.
Long story short, by God’s grace and after putting on a very entertaining show for all the boats around us, we finally got the dinghy motor going, retrieved the pole across the bay, which for time had disappeared and eventually claimed our ball. Afterward we both collapsed in the cockpit, sopping wet, exhausted but laughing uproariously at how paradise isn’t always as great as you imagine it.
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34: 19 (ESV)
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