“Steady as she goes” was the captain’s direction to the helmsmen on ships of old, meaning ‘hold this course.’ I have reminded myself of that old phrase many times in the last couple of months. After making the decision to close the Christian school ministry attached to the church which I pastor, the winds of criticism kicked up. The anger directed at me by people who are disappointed is hard to endure gracefully. The financial stresses that brought the decision and those that followed have caused sleeplessness and driven me to prayer.
And, when these gale force winds are blowing, I listen for the voice of the Spirit Who counsels me – “Jerry, steady as she goes.”
Nobody likes it when the preferred life path, plan “A” – so to speak – is disrupted. The wise have a plan “B” in place for such moments. Perhaps there is even a “Plan C” for what we think is possible but unlikely. But our best efforts, our most carefully developed plans sometimes disappear when a hurricane brings destruction on a scale that we never imagined in our worst nightmares! There are the circumstances that develop unforeseen in our lives, that change everything. Losing my wife several years ago to cancer was the worst storm in my life, making the current one seem like a mere gusty winds by comparison.
Years of experience have taught me that allowing myself to get swallowed up by the storms, raging at God, responding to every critic, personalizing the attacks that come my way, is toxic, leading only to bitterness. Honestly, I do succumb to moments of fear and/or anger, but thanks be to God and good counselors, after the thunderstorm of emotions passes, hope is restored. It is far more than sunny optimism. My hope rests a bedrock faith in God’s love and grace, a sure conviction that He knows me better than I know myself, and that He is able to use all things; disappointment, sorrow, success and failure, to bring glory to Himself if I will walk ‘steady on’ with Him. When we resist Him, when we decide to react rather than to press on, we turn into embittered, miserable people. But, if we let Him guide and lead, He will use our tears to water the seed from which grows the beauty of Jesus in us.
In the book of James, the Spirit urges us to faithful acceptance. “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:9-12, NLT) Let’s not confuse his counsel of acceptance of God’s reign with resignation to ‘life as it is!’ He tells us to trust and to pray … ” Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. . . . The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:13, 16, NLT) Those ‘wonderful results’ are often not at all what we expected! They are what God, in His infinite wisdom, prepares for us.
Disciple, let your faith grow deep, beyond demanding pleasant circumstances and sunny skies. Let the Holy Spirit of God do His work in you. He is not always ‘fair’ in the way that we would determine fairness. His ways are not always pleasant as we would desire. But He is always good, always present, and as the Word promises, “always working for the good of those who love Him and who are called to His eternal purposes.” So, steady as she goes!
Here is a word from the Word. It comes from that book in the Old Testament that asks us to trust a God Whose ways are sometimes inscrutable. Join Job in this declaration of faith today. “But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.” (Job 23:10-11, NKJV)
My faith has found a resting place
Not in device or creed
I trust the ever living One
His wounds for me shall plead
Enough for me that Jesus saves
This ends my fear and doubt
A sinful soul I come to Him
He’ll never cast me out — Public Domain