What should have been a day of relaxing and laughing with friends while tubing on the Little River in the Smoky Mountains turned into a terrifying moment.
I had floated that river for years. The sun was hot, the water refreshingly cool. My husband and I were with another couple. No kids to worry about . . . just relax and laugh . . . I thought.
Caught in the Rocks
A short run of small rapids came up as the four of us were bunched up in our bright yellow floats talking. My husband, Deron, and the other couple floated quickly on ahead in the rapids, but I was caught in an eddy of swirling mountain water between two large rocks. I tried my normal shuffle maneuver but couldn’t break free. I looked ahead to see Deron way down, floating on the opposite side of the river.
Attempting to free my tube again, I tried kicking hard against one of the rocks, bruising the bottom of my foot, but nothing was working. Soon, a group of strangers passed quickly, trying to help me, but they couldn’t quite reach me.
Again, I looked downstream to see Deron yelling something to me that I couldn’t hear.
I tried several more times to free myself by shifting my weight in the tube, only to have the cold water wedge me in tighter.
I knew I shouldn’t stand up. I had told my kids that over the years.
I looked again to see if my husband was coming to help me, only to catch a glimpse of him in his tube down river holding on to a limb. I felt hot tears fill my eyes. I was shaking and scared. I have always been clumsy, and I began to seriously doubt my ability to free myself. I began to wonder if I might die. Surely, that was a silly thought.
Why was I so upset?
Trying to Get Free
I decided to try to stand and push myself just around the biggest rock, hoping the swift current would help set me free. I stumbled on the slippery rocks below, feeling pain in my knees as I fell against a jagged rock. I struggled to hold onto the tube as the rushing water pushed me down once more. I felt the strap on one shoe give way, making standing even harder.
I turned to look behind me just in time to see another large group of tubers heading straight for me. I tried to avoid them but was quickly knocked down again, skinning my toes on the rocks below. As I tried to regain my balance, I was caught between two tubers who were tethered together—their strap pushing against the back of my neck. The cold, rushing water was also pushing me forward into one of the large rocks with incredible force. I grabbed the strap with one hand, while holding my tube with the other. I bent down freeing myself from the strap on the two tubes but hitting my arm on a limb in the water. My neck seethed in pain.
I began to shake, thinking I might actually die that day, and I wondered again, Where is my husband?
As I looked up, I saw our friend, who was closer to me upstream, walking down the side of the river, coming to my aid. He maneuvered into the water, grabbed my tube, and helped me stand. He held on to my shaking arm as I got around the big rocks and back on my tube.
Why Am I So Upset?
Floating down the river again, a large knot was forming below one knee; but I didn’t want to spoil the day for everyone else. My husband nor my friends knew how scared I had been. I began to tease Deron for not coming to my rescue and tried to ignore the pain I was feeling in my toes, both knees, and my neck.
That night, I went to bed with ice and ibuprofen, and the next morning, I woke up very upset at my husband. Why hadn’t he come to help me? I couldn’t understand or control the emotions rushing with the same force of water against me the day before.
I sat down with my Bible and prayed. God, why am I so upset? I know I am being silly.
But as the day went on, I fought back tears—the pain and bruises continually reminding me of the day before. God, why am I so upset with Deron? He had been on the other side of the river, much further downstream. He couldn’t really see the trouble I was in.
Yet I couldn’t shake the deep hurt I was feeling.
And then as it often does, out of the blue, (thank you, Holy Spirit) Scripture came to my mind: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).
The verse just seemed to “pop into my head.” Over the years, I’ve learned to stop and listen when this happens.
God, are You telling me, once again, that I can’t trust my own heart? Could my emotions over the episode the day before be misdirected?
Truth, living water, began to wash my mind. I realized I was allowing the enemy to use old wounds to make a situation much bigger and more upsetting than it should be.
I knew the Holy Spirit was reminding me to take every thought captive, and that as I did, I could tear down the enemy’s arguments and extinguish the fiery darts assaulting my thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5).
Hitting Us Where It Hurts
The enemy was at it again. I began to understand what he was trying to do. Years ago, my first husband had committed suicide, leaving me a young, single mom with two little boys. I had felt very much abandoned . . . a wound the enemy clearly knows about.
And the enemy never fights fair.
In his attempts to hurt and cause division among us, the enemy often hits us where we’ve been hurt before. This was exactly what he had been doing in this situation, and my heart was almost deceived.
God rescued me from the deception. He reminded me through His Word that I should question my heart, feelings, and emotions and not allow the enemy to use past wounds for future gain.
Yes, I felt abandoned in that river temporarily, but the truth is I was not abandoned by Deron that day, and I certainly never have been or could be abandoned by God. The enemy wanted to take those feelings I experienced in the river and magnify them and manipulate them to cause me more pain than those rocks ever could. He wanted to use my past wounds for future gain in my marriage and my life. He still does.
And so, as I sit here bruised and battered, I share this truth with you: Don’t allow the enemy to use past wounds for future gain in your life either!
Don’t Let Him Mess with You
Let’s recognize when the enemy of our souls tries to do that. Let’s not allow him to mess with us like that.
Oh, he will try again in my life, as he will try in yours. Let’s be aware of his schemes. Instead of falling into his traps, take a moment and breathe and test your emotions. Does the thing you are so upset about have something to do with a past wounding? If so, question your response. Take your thoughts captive and watch the Lord protect you. God will protect you with His Word. So read it.
Seriously, friend, read your Bible! The Holy Spirit will use what you spend time reading. It is so worth it!
Jesus says in John 8:31–32, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Knowing truth will set you free and give you strength for the battle!
And friends, we are all in a battle. This life is not a game. We have an enemy of our souls . . . and he is much more dangerous than a rushing, rocky, mountain stream. He has come to rob, kill and destroy (John 10:10). He has his sights set on us and those we love. Let’s be on guard for his schemes and walk in victory!
And we can walk in victory because of our Savior and His powerful Word that squashes the schemes of the evil one!
For though we walk [or stumble in a rushing river] in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete (2 Cor. 10:3–6).
What a Mighty Savior! His name is faithful and true!