Dip Your Toes In

“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!  And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.  They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.  For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.”  Psalm 36:7-9

Isn’t that passage just absolutely wonderful?  There’s so much there.  God’s merciful love, His protection, His abundant provision, His bountiful gifts, His life-giving presence, His holiness.  It shows the Lord’s involvement in our lives, His deep care and concern for all of our needs, and His great generosity with His children.  It’s enough to make you want to just jump right in, doesn’t it?

I have had a picture in my head all week that just won’t leave.  It’s a picture of the priests at the Jordan River as the Israelites were ready to cross into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering through the wilderness.

“You shall, moreover, command the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” Joshua 3:8

Like the Israelites, I have spent some time in the wilderness, too.  In the beginning, all I could focus on was getting through and getting out.  Many times I cried out to the Lord, begging Him to just hurry up and get the lesson over with so I could learn it and move on.  I didn’t understand then that the focus was never supposed to be on the destination, but on Who was on the journey with me.

As I attempted to navigate through that strange, unwelcomed place, I found myself reading God’s Word more and more.  I spent a lot of time in the Psalms, and grabbed onto every promise I came across.  I spent hours with Him daily, not necessarily because I wanted to at first, but because I had to – because it was the only way I could make it through the day.

During that time, I read a devotional by Amy Carmichael that spoke about the Lord turning our pain, our desert places, into something beautiful and useful.  The verse she used was for Israel, but I knew that it was for me, too, and it gave me hope.

“Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody.”  Isaiah 51:3

The wilderness time was finally over.  The Israelites had learned to go when God said go, and stop when God said stop.  The hope of the promise was soon to be a reality, as the Israelites were finally ready to cross the Jordan.  The Lord required something of them first, though.  It was not enough to stand there and wait for the Lord to part the water.  They knew He could do it – He had done it before.  No, this time they were required to literally step out in faith.  As the priests stepped into the water, it parted, and like before, the Israelites walked across on dry ground.

What a picture for us!

Are you walking in the wilderness right now?  May I encourage you to let the Lord comfort your waste places, too?  He can take what is dry, broken and lifeless, and nurture it back to life.  You will live again, you will laugh again, and you will sing again.  The Lord is faithful, and He always keeps His promises.  You will be able to say with Job, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

Maybe you’ve already come out of the wilderness, feeling as if you’re standing on the bank of a swiftly moving river, wondering how you’ll ever get across.  If so, pray for direction, seek wise counsel, and then step out in faith.  Dip your toes in, and watch the Lord do the miraculous.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them.  I will open rivers on the bare heights and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land fountains of water.” Psalm 41:17-18

People of Courage

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Fear. It can steal our sleep, our health, keep us in jobs that we’re not suited for or unhappy in, make us stagnant, and it can bring discord into a family. It can keep us from enjoying the life that God has given us. As Jason Gray, one of my favorite musicians, sings, “There’s no thief like fear.” Do you know that you don’t have to live in fear? I didn’t.

Growing up, and throughout nearly all of my life, fear was a constant companion. It was all I had ever known…and because it was such a part of me, I not only didn’t see it for what it was, but I didn’t know that I could be free from it.

There was nothing traumatic in my life responsible for the fear I felt, as far as I’ve been able to determine. I wish it were that way for everyone that experiences it. It began as shyness, but it grew to eventually impact every area of my life.

Then one day, while sitting in church, the Lord showed me something. God’s Word says over and over not to fear. I read somewhere that the Bible says not to fear 365 times, once for each day of the year. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that we’re commanded to not fear. So…if it’s a command, then that means we have a choice, right? We can choose to fear, or we can choose not to fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Every day we are bombarded with messages designed to strike fear in our hearts. Through social media, television, radio, the newspaper, and magazines in the check-out stand, our minds are inundated with these messages. The enemy of our souls uses fear to bring disunity to our homes, our cities, and our country. But there is a better way.

We have a Bible filled with God’s promises. What helps me is refusing to be afraid and choosing to speak those promises out loud. “Your Word says that You will never leave me nor forsake me, so I will not be afraid.” Or “Your Word says that I am clothed with the armor of God, so I will not be afraid.” You get the picture. I have noticed that the more I proclaim God’s Word aloud, the less often fear even tries to take over. I no longer walk in fear, and you don’t have to, either. The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear, and the more we spend time in the presence of God, the more we are filled with His love for others, the more fear loses its hold.

One of the main characters in the movie Courageous said, “Where are you men of courage?” But I also have to ask, where are you women of courage? Although the movie was about fathers accepting their God-given roles and responsibilities, women have vital roles to play as well. When we live in fear, and make our decisions based on fear, everything suffers, and our priorities get mixed up. Not only are our spiritual lives affected, but our families suffer and sometimes fall apart, and other things in our lives unravel in the process.

It is never too late to break the fear cycle. We can begin today, knowing that the Lord is faithful, that He came to heal the brokenhearted, that He can take all of our past mistakes and work everything together for good – He can turn ugliness into something beautiful. My favorite words in the song Courageous are, “The only way we’ll ever stand is on our knees with lifted hands.” Amen. May we come to Jesus and let go of our fear, and instead, find forgiveness, renewal, strength, restoration and peace. May He make us people of courage.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6