A River of Faith

How long can one canoe with 5 guys, their luggage, an additional 100 lbs. of camera equipment, and a drone stay afloat?

It turns out, pretty long.

Until it started to rain.

The sinking feeling we all get when we realize we’re no longer in control of our surroundings, was in my case, more than a feeling, we were actually sinking! In the sweltering center of the Amazon jungle, on some brown river that appeared to be licking its chops, as its current was ready to engulf us, I found it strange that my life didn’t flash before my eyes.

It was Theodore Roosevelt’s life instead!

In that moment, I thought about the epic journey our 26th President, along with the famed Brazilian explorer, and indigenous populations advocate, Cândido Rondon took in 1913-14. Their many failures and foibles, near-death experiences, and actual death encounters are vividly regaled in Candice Millard’s book, The River of Doubt.

The extreme environment of the Amazon River Basin that day made me doubt and despair what little existence I had left. It’s snaking rivers are so severe, that even the “Rough Rider” himself, narrowly escaped. As Roosevelt lay in a canoe, similar to ours, incapacitated by an infection and fever coursing through his body, I sat in silence, with my mind racing, trying to find any thought to transport me out of this peril.

Then, a familiar shape started to appear amidst the green embankments, it was a houseboat. The only sign of hope in site. This was not just “any port in the storm.” This was the only port. We pulled into their dock, just as the waterline was parallel to the sides of our vessel, pleading for help.

The man showed us unusual kindness by inviting us in to dry off and offering to pray for us. My thoughts in that moment turned to the Apostle Paul, who was shipwrecked in the Mediterranean Sea and God spared his life by leading him to the island of Malta (Acts 27-28).

I am sure many reading this have heard the expression of a “shipwrecked faith” used with a negative connotation. In fact, Paul uses the term in 1 Timothy 1:9.

However, when you are in a river of doubt, perhaps saving-faith is the shipwrecked kind.

All our vestiges of security and illusion of control need to sink. Our boat could not be our bailout. Even Paul had to float ashore on pieces of his former “life-raft.”

My trust can only be in Jesus Christ alone.

Matthew 14:30-31 says, “When [Peter began] to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (ESV)