I rested comfortably in my lounge chair on the beach, curled up with a book and an iced tea. Almost to the point of dozing off, I was startled when several people in the water frantically yelled, “Call 911!!” Not even knowing what was going on, I grabbed my phone and called.
It turned out that two young men had gotten pulled in to a rip current. They’d swam out beyond the posted buoys that warned swimmers to not go past that point.
The area they were caught in didn’t look dangerous. In fact, upon close inspection one would have a hard time believing this area could possibly cause any harm. When one of the men was suddenly pulled into the current, his buddy looked around in disbelief when he couldn’t see his friend. He frantically yelled, “Help!” but it took a little while before anyone even noticed something was wrong.
My husband and sister-in-law were out close enough to hear his desperate cries and alerted others to get help. They waved down people who were on jet skies to go out and rescue these men. In the meantime, everyone on the shore just stood waiting for a rescue squad to arrive and I prayed for God to intervene and spare the lives of these two friends.
Finally after what seemed like forever, I could see two people pulling a third one onto their jet ski. The other young man was pulled out of the current and able to trudge through the water safely back to shore. The young man who’d been sucked under by the current appeared completely exhausted and distressed as he flopped to the ground, surrounded by his worried friends. He and his friend were shaken up, yet they survived.
After further research on rip currents, I learned that some people don’t survive when they get sucked in to this sudden swirl of death. Last year in the United States, 64 people died from drowning as a result of getting caught in a rip current. People will panic when this strong current pulls them out unaware. Their first instinct is to swim against the current in a desperate attempt to get closer to the shore. But the current is so strong they can’t swim against it and they utterly wear themselves out in complete exhaustion and panic…..leading to drowning.
This scenario is similar in how followers of Jesus have an enemy. An enemy who prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour(1 Peter 5:8). The enemy doesn’t usually go after crowds. He usually targets those who have wandered away from the core of the flock. Those who are isolated. Those who may have gone outside the safety zone. That is his tactic–to trip someone up where they least expect it. What appears to look calm and harmless on the surface can suddenly knock us down and before we know it, we’re gasping for air–furiously treading water.
So how do we keep from getting caught in the rip currents the enemy desires to pull us into? For one thing, we don’t stray off by ourselves. We can’t walk this life alone and we need accountability. We need the body of Christ to encourage and build us up. We can’t deceive ourselves into thinking we can figure life out on our own.
We also need to live our lives within the boundaries God has set up for us. I like to call them guard rails. They are there to protect us and keep us from swerving off course. God knows what is best for us and we need to trust Him.
But sometimes life happens and we find ourselves in a tail spin. We wander off to isolate ourselves. We attempt to cure our wounds with human means. We think Nobody else can understand what I’m going through; something must be wrong with me. And that’s when the enemy sees a moving target. He pulls us out further than we intended to go. And just like the pull of a rip current, he sucks us into a trap of swirling doubt.
Doubt that God sees our pain. Doubt that God cares about our pain. Doubt that there is hope.
What do we do then my friend? Do we give up and drown? No! We call out for help. We call out until someone responds. It can’t just be a whisper. It has to be heard. We humbly admit our weakness. We ask for help and patiently allow God to use other believers to help us. That is the body of Christ. Reaching out in the name of Jesus to bring others from the dangers of the sea…to the safety of the shore.
Maybe you’re not the one drowning but a spectator in the water. Are you close enough to those around you that you notice them slipping further away to a dangerous zone? Can you see them beginning to isolate themselves? Don’t wait until they’re close to drowning before you intervene. Keep them accountable, yet hold them close. Nudge them closer to the flock so the enemy can’t suddenly snag them away.
1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.