"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
- Isaiah 42:3
“I’m not doing this again,” I proclaimed, and I meant it with all my heart.
Just a few days before, I spent a dark, rainy weekend packing our lives into boxes and then unloading them into a new place in a new city. Though the bulk of the work was behind me, I felt exhausted and unsatisfied. I didn’t look forward to new memories and planting roots, because this new place had no more certainty than the last one. I feared another weekend much like the one I’d just experienced was all too close.
So, I announced I wasn’t doing it again. But my husband’s career requires us to relocate often, so although I knew I couldn’t cling to the idea of never moving again, I could purpose to do it differently the next time. Why do we need this lamp? There are perfectly fine lights on the ceiling. Who needs headboards for the beds? The wall will be support enough. This dresser isn’t necessary.We can stack clothes on the shelf in the closet. And so it went. One thing at a time, I whittled away at our stuff and created a simpler, much more manageable life of mobility.
In today’s key verse, God talks to His people, the Israelites, as they begin a journey. After years in captivity, they rejoiced at the freedom to return to their homeland. But to get there, they would have to travel a long distance. Their travel would look quite different from ours — no plane to catch and no trailer to haul their stuff. So you can imagine the challenge this nation would face when they found themselves standing in front of deep waters or difficult rivers. Men, women, children, livestock and all their belongings would have to find a way through these physical obstacles.
Though we may not come upon an actual river, we will likely encounter something this year that mimics a rushing current or suffocating smoke. Notice how our key verse says, “When you go through deep waters … When you go through rivers of difficulty … When you walk through the fire of oppression.” When. Not if.
The nation of Israel was guaranteed to encounter all of these on their journey, and I think we can count on it too. So let’s prepare for it, shall we? When I realized the uncertainty of my family’s future, I purposed to get rid of all of the extra, unnecessary things that weighed us down. The things we absolutely could live without and would ultimately free us up to follow God wherever He chose to lead us.
Since that day, my family has moved every single year. And that’s okay. Our things are now so simplified we can do it in a matter of hours. Our last move demanded my husband and me, and about two hours of our time. That’s it. Consequently, I no longer dread future moves, because I know we’re prepared for it.
We all have extra. Sometimes in our physical surroundings. Sometimes in our spiritual ones. To face the troubles sure to surface, we need to get rid of the extra.
When the water is deep, your feet can’t feel the bottom. And your body is tired, but the other side is still so far away. That one thing you don’t need could be the one thing that drags you under. Of course, no matter how prepared we feel, we’ll never be able to conquer our troubles alone. God didn’t just warn of potential problems ahead, He included promises to stand on in the midst of them.
God will be with us. We will not be overtaken. We will not be utterly consumed.
As we head into a new year, let’s start this one prepared, so when we face the trials of life we will stand. Undaunted by deep waters. Ready for rivers of difficulty. Fearless in the face of the fire.
Dear God, thank You. Thank You for the smiles and laughs and songs and prayers all shared in 2016. And thank You for the promise of Your presence as I travel through 2017. Through deep waters and difficult rivers and oppressive heat, You promise You will be with me. May my actions prove Your promises this year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.