By Marcus Craig
Who knew that a simple canoe trip to the Boundary Waters would have such a profound impact on my faith for the remainder of my life? Well, God knew. He used a week-long fishing experience, when I was fourteen years old, to reveal His character and prepare me for the storms of life.
Have you ever had to wait on God? Ha, what a silly question, right? We’ve all had times in our lives when we were waiting for God’s answer, or deliverance, or direction, or provision, or…the list goes on and on. Well, early into my teenage years, He branded my heart with Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart; and wait for the Lord.”
THE TRAINED FISHERMAN
I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand. My dad took my older brothers and me fishing everywhere – from the local haunts to remote fly-in destinations in deep-wilderness Canada. Even at a young age, when I wasn’t fishing, I was reading about fishing, watching fishing shows on television and making my own fishing lures. So, the summer before high school, when the opportunity came along to join my older brother, Todd, a youth pastor, on his annual Boundary Waters youth group outing— I jumped at it.
THE TRIP— DAY 1
We were officially in the pristine Boundary Waters, and Day 1 began. As was common for each day going forward, our small group of canoers stopped occasionally to fish. We also fished in the evenings at our campsite. Some people on the trip had never really fished before, and some people (me) were there mainly to fish. Canoeing in these remote, wild waters “made my mouth water” in anticipation of fishing. I couldn’t get my line in the water fast enough and never missed a moment to do so.
So, with the excitement of Day 1, I fished whenever I wasn’t paddling. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch a fish. I didn’t even get a bite the first day.
My brother provided a study guide for our nightly Bible times. After review and discussion, we would apply the scripture to our individual lives, finishing with prayer time. The verse of focus, as you may have guessed, was Psalm 27:14. Psalm 27 ends with this encouraging reminder of the certainty we should have in God’s faithfulness.
In addition to the exhortation to be “strong,” the NIV’s “take heart” means “let your heart be confident” in Hebrew. Confident. Confident in God’s delivering and rescuing faithfulness, His love. Confidence speaks of certainty: the certainty and trust of God’s unimpeded, uninterruptable power, might and loyal love. The verse speaks of waiting with confident expectation for the Lord’s mighty hand, a holy hand which is never “too short.”
Day 2 went by, and I still hadn’t caught any fish. Day 3 came and went – still no fish. I wasn’t even getting bites. My canoe mate caught fish. The girls in our group who have never fished before (or didn’t care to) caught fish. Everyone caught fish. Just not me. As Day 4 went by, and still no fish, my desperation increased. I had tried all my tricks by now. I’d switched to the lures other people were using. I switched back to my lures. I tried similar colored lures, then different colored lures. Casted far and close. Fished shallow. Fished deep. I did everything I knew to do.
Let’s pause here for a second. Really— what are the odds??? Truly. To be the ONLY person in the group to not catch a single fish while at the Boundary Waters, which were teeming with fish?
I had all the experience, all the knowledge and all the tools to be successful in catching fish— lots of fish.
DEPENDENCE & DOUBT
By Day 4 I was shifting to an awareness of; A) the futility of self-reliance a; B) dependance on God’s provision. Sprinkle in a heavy dose of doubt and self-pity, and that’s where I stood. The nightly group Bible studies’ prayers moved from “Please help Marcus to catch some fish, lots of fish” to “Help Marcus to just catch a fish, Lord.” All SELF-confidence vanished. It shifted to full dependence on God’ grace. But my discouragement had turned to despair. Yes, this is a fishing story, but at fourteen years old I was deeply disappointed. “What a complete waste,” I thought.
THE FINAL PRAYER and A FINAL DAY
On the last night of our trip, during our last group Bible Study, my faithful brother, Todd, prayed “Lord, we pray that Marcus catches one, big fish.”
The morning of Day 6, our final day, arrived. It was cold and windy at our last campsite. We were out of food and the group was very hungry. My brother, ever the encourager, said, “Come on brother, let’s go fishing one more time.”
“No,” I said. I didn’t want to. It was overcast and chilly. What was the point? But he kept at it, and I gave in. You see, I wouldn’t have gone fishing one last time had my brother not lovingly encouraged me. He knew of God’s faithfulness and to never give up. He was demonstrating what it meant to “be strong and let your heart take courage.” He knew we should always leave room for God. Always.
I reluctantly got in the canoe, and begrudgingly paddled out on the dreaded lake. We began fishing. I was miserable. Who catches a fish in these conditions, in the middle of the lake?
Then…something hit my line. Wait…something big was on my line. To be truthful, in the moment I thought it was a log or stick. It took Todd literally saying to me “That is a fish! Look at your pole!” (The pole was completely bent over.) Again, even in the midst of it, I was doubting!
The fish began tugging hard. The line on the reel was screeching as the fish fought back. I finally accepted that I had a fish on the line, and I was pleading to God with everything in me not to let it fall off the line. I started reeling too fast (what fishermen call “horsing” the fish, an action which often results in losing said fish). My heart was pounding. I was shaking with excitement. Oh, and our canoe was approaching some big rocks, deep in the lake, with the wind and waves pounding us. The fight was raging on! Lord, help me land this fish!
As I continued reeling it closer, Todd realized we had no net! We’d have to try lifting this big fish into the canoe. So, with the fish teetering over the edge, about to slip back into the water, we barely got it in. Whoa!
The fish was a giant lake trout – an eight-pounder – the largest fish I had caught in my life by that age. It was HUGE. I was dumbfounded with exhilaration. Wow. Just wow. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Thank you, God!
The whole camp ate fresh, delicious lake trout for lunch.
Looking back, I see how God used that answered prayer, not only to bless me, but to bless those with me, too. That’s how He works. He sees the big picture. He meets the need that you don’t even ask for.
THE LIFE-LONG IMPACT
From that day forward, my favorite verse is Psalm 27:14. That verse is embedded in my soul. That trip changed my life and grew my faith.
Throughout life’s journey, I’ve drawn upon that verse, the memory of that trip, and the prayer for “one, big fish” when I faced inevitable storms. It carried me through when my wife suffered a miscarriage during her first pregnancy.
“Lord, will we be able to have children?
“Wait for the Lord…”
And as I continue to go through life and face its disappointments, discouragements and trials, tempted to doubt and despair, I recall Psalm 27:14. And I surrender to the Lord’s will, knowing that His plan is greatest.
For He is always faithful. His appointed time is perfect. Wait for Him.
Marcus Craig is an energy executive, residing in the Metro-Atlanta area with his wife and four children. He is active in his local church and men’s ministry. Marcus loves taking his kids fishing whenever possible; each time they go, they remember to say a “fishing prayer” before they begin.