Standing at river’s edge, cocooned by the sounds of the water, I am immersed in the simple beauty of this place. Upriver, calm clear waters glisten. Directly in front of me, foaming rapids seem agitated. Poles dangling from thin wires skim the surface as they mark the course of an Olympic kayak training course. Rocks and boulders along the floor of the river cause the heavy currents and white water sought after by kayak enthusiasts.

Shadows are beginning to fall over the mountains, signaling the end of the day’s practice runs. Kayaks are being pulled onto the shore to dry, their owners trading wet suits for warm, dry clothing. Waiting fishermen are beginning to fling their lines onto the surface of the churning waters. People are milling along the bank.

Yet for those moments beside the water, I am alone with my Lord. Soaking in the beauty of my surroundings. Listening, in my spirit, for God’s voice. And captivated by the water, I am mesmerized by leaves caught up in the currents near the shoreline. Small leaves. Large ones. Bright red. Brilliant yellow. Stunning orange. All making their trek down from trees high in the mountains.

Cast aside by the faster waters of mid-river, these autumn leaves are having a much calmer trip in the shallows. Some float lazily by on the river’s surface. Some pass by just beneath the surface.

A little further out though, still other leaves are going nowhere, swirling helplessly at the bottom of the riverbed. Forced downward by the power of the river, drowning in the very current that had been carrying them.

Yet after what must have seemed like a suffocating time at the bottom, somehow those same leaves resurface and resume their float trip downstream as if their turmoil, their bottom ride, had never happened.

At times, don’t we humans mirror the journey of those leaves? Experience times when the rough currents of life suck us in and spiral us downward into the raging waters of tough circumstances. Times that throw us into the grasp of what seems to be an angry God who seems to relish shoving us under the surface of the very life He has purportedly given to us.

Times when we know we must be alive, we’re still breathing. Yet truthfully, we’re not sure. How could we be very alive when held captive by hidden pressures even though everybody around us seems to be floating by, unaware of the dark emotions of distress and despair draining our soul. Robbing us of reason. Plundering our hope.

Oh readers, please listen with me to the lessons of the river . . . .

Those drowning leaves simply given over to the flow of the waters eventually were making their way back to the surface. Propelled upward by unseen forces, somehow they were reentering the river’s ebb and flow. Lifted by the very currents which had held them under for so long.

Changed? Perhaps. Ragged, tired? I imagine. Resilient? Somehow. Beat up, yet beautiful still? Amazingly.

Just as those leaves, perhaps when we manage to lay our drowning emotions of doubt, fear, anger, pain, darkness of spirit, despair at the feet of Jesus. Entrust ourselves into the hands of the Almighty God who created us, I believe eventually we will discover that those are the hands of a God who is in the waters of life with us.

The hands of a God who hears our cries, who is not unaware of our life circumstances, however horrible. Who wants us to quit thrashing and rest in His arms, no matter which way life’s current may be flowing. Who is moving about in our lives. Carrying us through the oppressive days. Strengthening us for the hard days. And never, ever leaving us to face life alone.

Our God is with us, in us, around us . . . on all our days.

Don’t you see, those leaves held beneath the surface of the waters were not destroyed. Rather, they were the ones who eventually experienced a precious gift that those floating on top of the water may never have known – that of an unseen power propelling them out of the depths, back to the surface, back into life.

Oh, how there have been times that I felt as if I was being held captive under the flow of life. And oh, how I wondered if God was the hand holding me there. But years, and much searching, later I can say with certainty that I don’t believe it was. Rather I can see how it was the sorrow, grief and pains of life holding me under. My Lord was the One keeping me from being buried alive. From resigning myself to depression or giving over to the temptation to renounce my faith.

My Lord carried me through those dark days. Held me in His arms through the rough currents of the waters of my life. Kept me from drowning spiritually.

Perhaps the words of the Psalmist captures my thoughts best when he declared that the Lord is the Sustainer of my soul. (Psalm 54:4)

My God is the Sustainer of my soul . . . on all my days.

God sustained me during the dark days of years past. God loved me, deeply, faithfully, completely. God strengthened me until I could find my way out of my shrouded emotional existence, back into life.

And oh, how good it felt to emerge from the shadows. To stop fighting, stop questioning, stop demanding answers. To believe and to rest in the knowledge that God absolutely can do all things. Yet, even if He doesn’t, still to believe and choose to live willingly in whatever current of life I find myself.

To dance with Him . . . even under the waters of life.

And wherever I find myself dancing, Oh God, please pour out your love, your comfort, your life and your hope through me.

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