By Myrtle Virginia Thompson
“Uncharted waters” is an apt description for our lives today. We know exactly what they mean, the words indelibly imprinted in our minds even if we know nothing about sailing. My memory went into reverse gear for times in my life when Bible characters acted as my guide while we passed through those waters. There is a wonderful reminder that Isaiah wrote to the people of his day: “Do not fear … When you pass through the waters I will be with you…” (Isa. 43:1-2). Stories and times of great uncertainty just like ours today have been retold from the first days of life on planet earth. Those who put their trust in the God Who knows the end from the beginning have reason for hope when we read how God has always interacted with people and nations.
I doubt that Noah in that massive ship in unprecedented flood waters knew where his ship would land (Genesis 8:15-17). His story and many others are recounted in God’s “Hall of Faith,” people who lived in uncertain times and places: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, so many others. Abraham was told to leave all he knew and go in search of a city whose architect and maker was God (Genesis 12; Hebrews 11). The children of Israel walked in unknown desert land for 40 years (Exodus 16). None of these knew where nor how their life would end. Proverbs 16:3 says, “The lot is cast into the lap but every decision is from the Lord.” God is in control of the world He created. He gave rules for living on His property, freedom to serve Him or disobey, but the choices still have consequences, blessing or curse (Deuteronomy 28).
Paul was traveling in “uncharted waters” that almost ended the trip of 276 people before they landed on Malta (Acts 27-28.) The seamen had tried to “chart the waters” as they went from a part they knew well but were thrown off course by a violent wind. It seems God had a plan to get His Word to a group who otherwise may never have known of Him. Paul did that through a healing ministry. We never know what God is doing behind the scenes, but nothing is hidden from Him. (Job 23:10)
In 1957, our family of six sailed out of Norfolk, on a freighter, making one stop in Nova Scotia before going on to England, where we would trans-ship to Pakistan.
The night before we were to land in Nova Scotia, we had a terrible storm that rocked the ship back and forth for several minutes. We had a large stateroom, and Baby Bob’s crib was pushed across it. None of us was hurt. One of the 60 passengers was slammed against his open closet door.
The next morning, the waters had calmed, the sun shining. We sat out on deck. The storm had left heavy snow along the waterfront, but the streets had been cleared. The chief steward stopped by to chat about the experience. I won’t forget what he said — the reason the ship stayed afloat was a credit to the good longshoremen who packed the bottom of the ship. He also told us he was a Christian and had seen us praying together.
We asked if we could get off and take a walk. We hoped to find a pharmacy. As we exited the walkway, a well-dressed man standing by his car greeted us. He offered to take us around the city. We piled in his car, knowing nothing about him nor where we were going. Was he an “angelic figure” to help us? Whatever … It was a lovely gesture. We made our pharmacy stop before returning to the ship. He did not want any payment, just did this as a kindness, welcoming guests to his homeland.
I have remembered many times the steward’s praise of “good longshoremen.” I can now equate that to godly leadership that will help in keeping our country’s ship afloat. We need prayer as we travel in these “uncharted waters” and the upheaval of these changing 2020 times. We can take courage from the scriptures.
Myrtle V. Thompson, 92, is a retired Bible teacher, educator and writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.