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With Blistered Hands and Aching Backs

With Blistered Hands and Aching Backs

Many years ago a great sailing ship was crossing the Atlantic when it came to the treacherous Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Though this is one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, it can all also be one of the most treacherous. Its waters are shallow and often blanketed by dense fog. Icebergs lurk in the darkness. And sure enough, that ship blundered into a great bank of fog and struck a massive iceberg.

Within moments the vessel began to settle heavily at the bow and the call went out to abandon ship. One of the terrified passengers cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” at which the captain replied, “Jump into the lifeboat!” The passenger saw that the lifeboat was a little way beyond the deck of the ship and a good bit lower down. Afraid and uncertain, he hesitated for a moment as he counted the cost. Should he leap or should he wait? Was it possible there might be another way to be rescued?

But the moment of hesitation passed and he chose to take the captain at his word. He chose to trust that the boat would be able to save him. He made the leap. His faith was rewarded when he landed within the craft and took his place beside some of the other passengers and crew. Together they watched with horror as first the deck and then the masts slipped beneath the waves. Soon there was nothing around them but a few stray pieces of wreckage and a haunting silence.

But the peril was not yet over. Though the people who had survived the sinking of the ship had been saved from death, they were still far out in a dangerous ocean. They could not just sit still and hope for rescue. There was something more they must do if they wished to make it to land. The captain, having taken his place in the front of the lifeboat, told each of the passengers to take up an oar, to slip it into an oarlock, and to row with all their strength. Having been saved from death on the ship, they now needed to work out that salvation through hard rowing.

And so, hour after hour and day and day after day, they put their strength into the work. Though they were safe within the lifeboat and fully dependent upon it to keep them from being lost in the depths of the ocean, they still needed to expend a great deal of effort. With blistered hands and aching backs, they pressed on through dark nights and dangerous seas.

And then the moment came when the cry went out: “Land ahead! Land!” Straining their eyes they saw the unmistakable rise of a hill in the distance. With fresh vigor they pressed on. As the waters grew shallower and the air grew warmer, they began to hear the sound of waves breaking against the beach. And as the bow finally scraped against ground, they leapt onto the shore knowing their salvation was now complete.

They knew their salvation was complete because here, in this new land, the waves could not reach them and the storm could not threaten them. They had reached a haven. They were safe. They were saved.

(Romans 8:29:30)

Inspired by the writings of F.B. Meyer


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