I used to live in Southern California and thoroughly enjoyed body surfing. I remember begging our mom to take us (or allow us to go) to Newport Beach to spend the day during the summer. It was always crowded and most kids packed the beach to just ‘lay out’ or socialize—but not us! We hit the water the moment we arrived and rode the waves all day long, taking occasional breaks to dry out or get warm (the water wasn’t always very warm). A warning flag would be flown from the lifeguard stands to tell us how severe the waves were that day. The flags would range from green—which meant “live it up” or “go for it” because the waves were mild, to yellow—which meant only strong swimmers should be in the water, to red—which meant don’t go in the water.
I would love ‘green days,’ and because we were strong swimmers, we would even swim on some of the ‘yellow days’ riding down the face of big waves as they pounded us into the surf below. It could be frightening if you weren’t accustomed to the surf. But when the waves were very large, that red flag would come out, and we would stay on the beach and not get in the beautiful tumbling waves that relentlessly hit the shore. Out there a swimmer could be battered and find it all but impossible to swim out away from the shore. But the most amazing thing is that the surfers loved those rough “red flag” days. They lived for those big curling waves, and would put on quite a show riding the waves as the rest of us were denied entrance to the sport.
You know, those flags are a lot like the trials and tribulations we experience in our lives. We can have green, yellow, and red days as well as trials. The distresses that the “ordinary swimmer” can face in day to day life because of the difficult changes and stretching caused, are the reason for joy for others. Now, Paul is quite clear when he states, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” He doesn’t say “in spite of it.” It is the rough and difficult times that caused him to rejoice, because he knew growth was happening as he responded positively.
We try to avoid difficult people, tasks, and changes. But those are the very things God uses to grow us and bring great joy into our lives. The key is our prayerful acceptance of those things when we experience them. If you ask people about when they really grew in their lives and felt close to God it is usually through times of difficulty and challenge. We must prayerfully prepare and grow stronger and when the waves are strong and the “red flag” is flying, let’s make it a cause for joy, and not distress. It is only distress when we fight against the waves, instead of riding them with contentment.
Verse for meditation or memorization:
“I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” II Corinthians 7:4
What strong “red flag” waves are you battling right now? Thank God that He cares about you and wants you to grow, and ride those waves to the changes in you that God desires!