When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and the rivers will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, and the flame will not burn you.
Isaiah 43:2 (CSB)
My youngest daughter is fearless. Well, not technically, because thunderstorms still send her running to my bedroom at night. But when it comes to leaping from the couch to the ottoman or hanging off the outside edge of the stairs, she doesn’t give a second thought to caution or safety.
It’s the same at the swimming pool. This past summer she had nearly outgrown her life jacket. But as a mom who’s far from fearless, I insisted she wear it anyway. Even though the arm floaties were a smidge tight. Even though she vowed she was just fine without them!
I simply did not trust her swimming skills yet. I did, however, trust that life jacket. That didn’t mean I left her alone at the pool. I didn’t camp out in a lounge chair, eyes glued to a book or my phone. No, I stayed in the pool with her or nearby while watching closely. But in the split second between seeing her jumping off the side and seeing her head pop back above the surface of the water, I could breathe.
On the rare occasion I let her take off her life jacket, it was a different story. Not only did I have to be in the water, I had to be within an arm’s reach. And I absolutely did not breathe from the moment she became airborne until I had her back in my arms above water.
I don’t want to oversimplify matters of faith, but for me, trusting God is like putting everyone and everything I care about in a giant life jacket.
Right now, I have a sticky note on my planner with a list of names written on it. It’s my urgent prayer list: a friend with breast cancer, two friends going through divorce, a friend whose husband has cancer, a friend whose husband lost his job, a family friend recovering from pneumonia. I haven’t written my husband, daughters, or brother on the list, because they never leave my prayers, but at times their needs are no less urgent than these.
If I let myself, I could become completely consumed with fear over each one of those situations. The what-ifs and worst-case scenarios whirl around my brain like a tornado, leaving behind as much damage as an actual twister. Chest pain, shortness of breath, tense muscles, and a flood of tears show up any time my loved ones cross my mind. As I desperately rack my brain for tangible ways to help or clever solutions to suggest, my shoulders reach my ears and my eyes widen to the point of causing a headache. I become completely unhelpful and even discouraging to those I so deeply wish to help and encourage.
Thankfully, I’m not alone in my fear. Though God allows me to go there if I choose, He doesn’t leave me in that dark place. He whispers, “Come to me,” and offers to take my burden (Matt. 11:28–30). And He reminds me that, just as He vows to be with me when I go through deep waters and raging fires, He’s made the same promise to each one of those people on my Post-it prayer list.
God’s promises — to love us, to care for us, to be with us no matter what — don’t just mean I can trust Him with my own safety and wellbeing, with my own life and heart and soul. No, He’s promised each and every one of us—and each and every one of the people I love — the same things. And while those promises don’t necessarily mean we will experience physical healing or safety, they do mean I can trust Him with the hearts and souls of my loved ones as well with my own.
And what a gift that is! What a relief! Because when we trust God with those we love, not only are we relieved of the anxiety that comes from worrying and attempting to control their lives, but we are actually able to love them better. When we trust God with our loved ones, we don’t have to keep them within arm’s reach or in a cage or a bubble. We are freed up to love them without pressure. That’s when they can see the love of God through us and be encouraged by our trust in Him.
Dear God, thank You for always being faithful to Your promises. Forgive me for grasping at the illusion of control instead of leaning on You. Remind me of Your faithfulness, and help me trust You more — with my own life and with my loved ones. Amen.