Amy Carmichael, the famous pioneer missionary to Japan and later to India more than 100 years ago, told of a time in which she was anxious because of a major set-back in her travels with two other missionaries. The group was returning to the mission station by boat, and the boat was late. Days late. Carmichael began to worry and fret because of the great waste of precious time and the problems the delay would cause for others back at the station. She shared her worries with an older missionary in her group. That missionary calmly told her, “God knows about the boats.”
Carmichael served two years in Japan, returned to England, then traveled to India where she would spend the rest of her life. Through it all, the important lessons of that delayed boat trip always stayed with her. Our God knows about the boats.
I was able to recall this story recently as I traveled back to Minnesota from California. Due to a blizzard that hit the Northern Plains on my travel day, I was laid over in Denver. The airport in Fargo was closed. This gave me time in the airport to work on other arrangements. Lots of time, and still more time in a hotel. And lots of time on a shuttle in between. Those of you who fly to Denver as a destination know how far from anything the airport is situated.
Flying to Fargo meant a four-day delay due to the already-full holiday flights. The best I could get the next day was a flight to Sioux Falls, SD. That would allow me to land four hour’s driving time from Fargo. I could rent a car, drop it at the airport in Fargo and get in my well-buried Jeep for the 80 mile drive home. Great plan.
Through it all, the words, “God knows about the boats” kept floating though my mind. Instead of worrying about the delay, I began to ask, “I wonder what my God is up to in all of this?” He reminded me that the pilot had announce prior to the first push-back that Sioux Falls was still closed and was having trouble clearing the runway due to high winds. We might have to land in Omaha, three hours further south. I began to wonder if the delay would allow the airport crew to clear the runway. “As you wish,” I whispered to my God.
We finally took off and flew to Sioux Falls, which indeed had used the time to clear the runway. As we taxied to the terminal, the snow removal equipment was still clearing the taxiways and connectors. We had barely made it. Apparently, our God knows about the boats.
I had reserved an SUV on the assumption the highway north would be in rough shape with ice and snow. The flight delay meant my SUV went home with someone else. All they had for me was a funny little micro car that would be about useless on miles of icy freeway. As the rental clerk was explaining this to me, a random stranger walking by overheard our conversation and stepped-up next to me at the counter. She spoke to the clerk, telling her that a micro-car would not work on the roads because they were still drifted and very icy. The clerk responded by stating that all the SUVs were gone. When I asked if there was anything with four-wheel-drive, she apologetically told me the only thing left was a full-size four-wheel-drive pick-up. She would let me take that if it were not too inconvenient. Apparently, she did not know that there is no vehicle better for snowy, icy roads than a full-sized pick-up. Yep, our God knows about the boats.
I took off in the truck, going slowly due to the conditions. After about 140 miles the freeway cleared and it was a smooth run the rest of the way to Fargo. In the end, all the delays and set-backs added 28 hours, 250 miles of driving and $300 in expenses to my trip. I made it safely, and even met someone in the Fargo airport who indicated her need for a keynote speaker for a national conference in the fall. We agreed to talk more about using me for that. I would never have met her if the flights had not been cancelled and delayed. It seems our God really knows about the boats.
There were many opportunities to be discouraged and upset. Many people in my disrupted travel cohort were. Yet it was clear that “God knew about the boats,” and had my best interests in mind.
How do we handle set-backs, losses, difficulties, and disappointments? Mine were minor compared to losing a loved one, suffering a relational failure, or a major illness. Kids disappoint. Abilities decline. Things we expect do not materialize. We sometimes ask questions like, “Why this, God?” “Why me?” “Why now?” “What are you doing?”
What if we simply accepted these as being used by our God in our lives? What if instead of questioning our God’s will or wisdom, we simply asked Him what He is up to in this? What if we responded to Him with, “As you wish, Lord?” What if we were to present ourselves to our God for whatever He has in mind for us in the circumstance, gladly and with honest hope for His work in the situation?