From deep to still

It is one of the most beloved and well-known passages of scripture:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” Psalms 23:1

Conjuring up an image of tranquility, comfort, and assurance, it speaks to the Father’s love and care of his children. But it also makes me wonder: if God is leading me to still waters, then why am I so often in deep waters? How did I end up there?  

Instead of lying down in lush greenery next to the softness of a babbling brook, I am more prone to find myself treading water while a storm rages around me. I feel more like Jonah awaiting the arrival of a monstrous whale than I feel like Peter walking on the waves.  

We were not made to live in the deep waters, you and I.

In fact, our human bodies can only skim the surface of the ocean’s depth; an experienced diver may go as deep as 130 feet, but that is miniscule when we realize that the ocean is over 12,000 feet deep!  

Genesis 1:2 uses the Hebrew word, tĕhowm, to describe the ocean as a deep place, the abyss, the grave. “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep….”  

The same term is used in Job when God berates him for his arrogance in Job 38:1 

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” He carries on in verse 16, “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep (tĕhowm)?”

As the Creator, only God understands what mysteries the deep holds and has walked among its subterranean stage and its vast array of amazing creatures. This place is not for man. Our bodies were not designed to live in its cavernous space – we would be crushed long before we would reach our destination. The tĕhowm was a place mankind was not designed to live in or likely ever to see. 

Therefore, God does not call us to live in deep waters. When He calls us into the water, He either intends for us, like Peter, to walk on water, or, as He did for the Israelites, He parts the water so that we might walk on dry land. We may go over it; we may go through it, but we are not to go under. We were not created for the deep waters and to the deep we do not belong.  

We belong on the green pasture beside the water. So how do we get there? 

Katie Gamble

Firstly, we must follow. God can’t lead us to still waters if we are not following Him. Sometimes we are more like the prophet Jonah, than we care to admit: determined to follow our own path in direct opposition to what God has called us to do. When we wander off on our own, we inevitably wander into trouble. At some point, we find ourselves having gone further than we thought we would, our feet having drifted deeper into the wrong direction. The water seemed calm at first….the sun was shining…the waves were gentle and soothing…

but suddenly, the weather shifted, and we found ourselves caught in the middle of a furious storm without a life preserver.  

In these moments, the deep waters are a consequence of our foolish choices, and it might get worse before it gets better. A whale might not look like an answer to prayer, but it just may be exactly what God sends to rescue you. When we repent, God forgives. When we invite Him to lead us once again, He takes back the reins and leads us to safety.  

But we can’t assume that every difficult situation is a result of our disobedience. Sometimes we find ourselves in deep water with the best of intentions.

In Matthew 14, we read the story of Peter. After feeding a crowd of five thousand, Jesus dismissed his disciples and went to pray. The disciples gathered in a boat to take them across the sea. They had already sailed a good distance against the wind when they saw Jesus walking on the lake. They were terrified, but Jesus called to them, 

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” Jesus said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (verses 27-29)  

It is in these rare moments, when our love and trust of Jesus outshines our fears, that we attempt to do the brave and the impossible. So focused and intent are we on gazing upon our Saviour that we forget who we are and where we are: we see only Him and He is enough. We step out in faith, forgetting for a moment that we are treading on dangerously deep territory, and for a split second, we are walking on water!  

Then, just like Peter, we notice the wind howling around us – the overwhelming set of circumstances we face – and we begin to sink.  One moment we are sailing above our circumstances and the next we are crashing in defeat.  

We cry out to God. And once again, He reaches out to pull us toward safety. He who walks among the deep also walks on the waves and knows we are unable to without His mighty hand.  

If you find yourself thrashing in deep waters of difficult circumstances, know that God is in the business of rescuing. He may part the waters, or He may enable you to rise above your troubles, but rest assured that when we call on His name, He will answer. 

 “The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.”  Psalms 34:22 

Maria Dyck is passionate about helping women stand on the Firm Foundation that is Jesus Christ. A writer, musician, wife, mother and occasional chicken farmer, you can find more of her writing at www.whenwallstumble.net
iola magazine even in the deep

God is in the whisper

Elijah, prophet, and speaker for God, had just come from the mountaintop – literally and figuratively. He had defeated the prophets of Baal in a dramatic display of fire and power on the Mount of Carmel. A declaration of God and His true power was on display for all of Israel to see. In the next chapter, we find our prophet, not on the mountaintop reveling in the victory, but in the valley. Under a tree. Depressed and sad. Feeling alone. In fact, he wanted to die.

He thought he had found God, there on the mountain. On the mountain, Elijah experienced a miraculous victory. God revealed His awesome power by consuming Elijah’s sacrifice, soaked in water, with a burning fire straight from the sky. Elijah surely thought: God is here. So when his life was threatened by a jealous and evil queen, he didn’t respond in triumph, he ran.

After this, Elijah found himself in the valley. Literally, Elijah fled to an isolated place with no water or food. It was an empty place, and he wished to die. I was surprised the first time I saw those words, but the great prophet of God spoke to God: “O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” The lowest a human can reach. To want to die is a deepest darkest pit, no one should experience. Yet so many do.

Are you in this pit? Read on to find how God meets Elijah here in the depths of his heartache….

God sends an angel. Not to give him a “pep talk” or a reprimand. God gives Elijah food. And sleep. I find it extremely comforting knowing God knew the physical strain depression an take on a body. Sleep is often the first thing to evade us when we suffer from darkness. God provided sleep and food for Elijah. Then He asked Elijah to go into the wilderness. It was time Elijah separated himself from his job, his friends, and his people. He already felt alone, but God was bringing him to a place where he was really alone.

So think about this with me: Elijah had been given a miraculous victory, then plunged deep into the depths of despair. An exchange happens between Elijah and God after all of that:

God: What are you doing here, Elijah?

Elijah: I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.

God: Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’ presence.

The next few verses are where we see where God is. Is He in the mountains? The valleys?

And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. I Kings 19:11-12 (KJV)

A “still small voice” can also be translated, “a soft whisper. God is in the whisper.

What does God tell Elijah? After all of that, the victory, the depression, the wilderness, the show of God’s power, God’s message to Elijah is the same message He has for us: You are not alone. And God still had work for Elijah. The close of I Kings tells how Elijah went back to work, and then {don’t miss this!!} he found Elisha. Here is what Elisha did for Elijah:

Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him. I Kings 19:21

Find God the of the glorious ordinary and walk the road of life leaning onto each other. God didn’t leave Elijah, and to show it, God sent Elisha – a friend – to comfort and walk with him. When Jesus calls us to abide with Him, He doesn’t just mean in the hardest days, but in mundane messy days.

What mess are you facing today? How can God meet you here, in the middle of the mess?

Does hardship weigh heavy on your heart? How can you hear God’s whisper in the night?

Are you feeling alone and forgotten by everyone, even God? How can you reach out to someone today?

Our God isn’t in the wind.

Our God isn’t in thunder and lightning.

Our God isn’t found in the majestic, but the mundane.

During the raging storm, He is both the waves and lighthouse. During our times of immense grief, He sits with us in the darkness, growing and molding us. During the hardest times of our lives, if we have seen His hand in the faithful small days, we can find Him in the darkness.

We want God to be grand and big {and He is}, but more and more I’ve been seeing God in the ordinary days. He is a whisper in the middle of the night. He is the quiet when I choose to be still in prayer. He is in the way the sun shines through the trees. He is in the laughter. He is in the faithfulness of the oldest saint in church who prayers. He is in the last leaf, hanging onto the tree.

It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God, but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people and this is not learned in five minutes. – Oswald Chambers

Sarah Frazer

Sarah E. Frazer writes and lives in a brick house at the end of Thomas Road with her husband, five kids, a cat, a dog, and five chickens. Motherhood is her calling but her passion is to inspire focus and encourage deep-rooted Bible study for the busy mom. Life is full of seasons, but every season can be made more peaceful when time is spent in God’s word. Join Sarah on her favorite social media space: Instagram. Or you can find her on her blog, www.sarahefrazer.com.