My arms were getting tired and I could feel the skin wearing from my elbows with all the backward paddling I was doing. Yet, there was something so refreshing and exhilarating about sitting in a tube on a river of fresh mountain water, and I was only too keen to get back in the flow.
Only seconds before, I had felt the thrill of being taken effortlessly down the small rapids, but now I had somehow come out of the flow, my floatable tube thrown to the side of the river with me on it, and I seemed to be going nowhere.
As I battled to get back to the middle where the river flowed best, sometimes it took a nudge from the tour guide’s boat, but more often it took persistent paddling from me, often requiring me to get out of the tube to redirect it away from the snags and point it in a new direction.
Seasons of struggle
There have been many seasons in my life where I knew I was on the right river, but the struggle was fierce and the battle, wearing. My body, mind and spirit were being tested, and my muscles were building—though sore.
There are also times when God calls us to relax in Him, to let Him take the reins, where we are to pull in our arms and legs and let His current take us to where He wants us to go. These times require trust; a strong leaning into God. They can be fast paced, yet once you let go and let God, they are effortless.
When I found myself back in the centre of the flow of the river, I could relax; the strength of the current directing me in the strongest flow and eventually to the shore.
The river from the temple
One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Psalm chapter 46 verse 4 that speaks of the river flowing from the temple where God dwells.
‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.’
I love this verse because it speaks to me of refreshment in God’s great power, yet the gentleness of it being as flowing water coming straight from the source of all creation. It holds so much hope, promise, truth and healing, and I want anything that comes straight from Him.
This river is spoken of in more detail in Ezekiel chapter 47:
‘The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east.)
…As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross.’ (verses 1, 3-5)
We see here that as the river of God flows, it does not dry up—it gets deeper!
Verse eight shows us the life source coming out of this river:
‘He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.”
The river of God is also a provider of good things:
“Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt.” (verses 10-11)
The river flowing from the temple brings much fruit and healing to the nations:
“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” (verse 12)
Water quenches thirst, heals wounds, soothes dryness, hydrates desert places. A river nourishes anything it flows past, gives life to creation below the water and above, and feeds the land giving shade, nourishment and life-giving food.
It is only fitting that God would use a river to describe His great flow of love to us, one that fulfils our every need and nourishes us on so many levels. I don’t know about you, but I want to immerse myself in it, soak in it and drench myself with it. I want to be surrounded by it, find comfort by it and let my soul be refreshed by it.
This river can be found through Jesus.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew chapter 11 verses 28-30)