Monday, April 29, 2013

Treading Water...Nowhere Near the Shore

Isaiah 43:2-3

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, 
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God…

When I was a little girl, I remember taking swimming lessons at a local pool.  My mom would either stay and watch, or go and hear my cries from the parking lot. Learning to swim was challenging for my 3-year-old body, as well as for my young mind.  The fear was always of going under the water with no way up.  The hardest and most frustrating technique for me to master, though, was treading water.  As part of my lessons, I was expected to tread water in the middle of the pool for a certain amount of time, proving my skill of survival.  Easy as it sounds, I hated it.  It was exhausting and boring, not fun at all.  As lessons progressed, I eventually became a strong swimmer and confident at treading water.  

More lately than ever, the day to day motions of caring for my ever-growing daughter have tested me in what seems like a new way.  With the knowledge that things are getting worse as she grows, the quality of life I want for her is harder to sustain, and there isn’t a place of rest anywhere near.  It’s as if I’m drowning.

Or is it?

When looking closer at my life with Elise, I realize that I’m not drowning at all -- I’m simply treading water.  

There is often a misconception about the act of treading water.  To most, this activity brings up negative thoughts that imply stagnation or a lack of progress --not going anywhere.   I challenge, though, that it’s all in how you look at it.  Treading water takes stamina, and develops good endurance. It’s overall a great exercise for your body.  All at once, you are working most of your muscles while increasing your heart rate.  The more you tread water, the longer you can maintain the motion, continuously building up your strength.  

In the same way, emotionally and psychologically treading water can be a life saver. It can build up your spiritual muscles, heighten your awareness of your surroundings, and raise your appreciation for the end of your trial -- dry land.   Most importantly, it has increased my dependence on God.  

I’m exhausted.  My body hurts and I’m out of breath.  But, as I continue to struggle, I rest in the knowledge that all is well with my soul.  My Lifesaver is directly beside me, pulling me up when I slip under the water. 

Plunging into rough, unknown waters isn’t reserved for only a few.  Not one of us is exempt.  Everyone faces burdens, misfortunes, adversities, and hardships.  Some cut to the bone, while others leave us with a sting.  

Strains in your marriage 
Death of a loved one
Chronic illness of a loved one or yourself
Feeling forgotten 
Separation from God
Difficulties with your children 
Losing a job
Hating your job
Fears for our country
Dismay over our society 
Crippling addictions

No matter how trouble-free you feel your life is, there will be a point when your boat is going to sink.  The shore will be out of sight, and in order to survive, you will have to rely on the hand of Jesus to keep you up.  Setting out alone will only drain you, leaving you gulping for air with no real compass of where to go or how to get there.  

This instinct to head for the unseen shore is understandable.  We can sometimes become sidetracked with a desire for finality--definitive ending of the pain, questions, or suffering.  Prayer requests impatiently waiting for their answer.  Sometimes our prayers need to focus instead on how to deal with our situation, bad as it seems, even when there isn’t an end in sight.  We can become hyper-focused on getting back to the shore, missing our opportunity to become stronger swimmers.  Stronger at survival.  

The interesting thing about treading water in this way, is that there is no room for sustained negativity.  Bitterness, self-pity, and anger are like weights around your waist, pulling you down as you flail in the water.  The more you hold onto these attitudes, the further you float from Jesus.  I don’t know about you, but I want to actively throw off these unneeded burdens, lightening my load.  The Bible says:

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee…”

Psalm 55:22 

Just as Peter began to sink when his trust in Jesus wavered, we too are required to keep our faith in the Lord, whole-heartedly believing in what we know is true about Him.  That He saves.  It helps me to envision myself taking off whatever is dragging me down, however large or small, and handing it over to the Lord.  How wonderful that, unlike us, He is unsinkable.  

Treading troubled waters has shown me the importance of a good attitude.  Laughing is my medication of choice, and has sustained in me a joyful outlook of what we face daily, and what’s to come.  It’s hard to cry when you’re delighting in all that God has given you, perfect or not.  No matter what I am up against at any moment in time, I have retained my sense of humor.   (To read my post on finding laughter amid tragedy/hard times, go here).  Without it, I believe I would be reduced to merely reacting to our circumstances in a way that definitely isn’t in line with what I know God wants from me.  

If I look back, glancing over my shoulder at our life before Elise was born, I begin to panic.  Mentally returning to those days and those memories is like looking back at a sinking boat, remembering it as it floated safely upon the water.  This does you no good when facing a trial.  Looking up for the saving hand of God is sure to bring you closer to peace than merely focusing on what used to be.  The boat is gone, leaving you with only one option…to tread water.  

I find great joy in giving my testimony to anyone who wants to hear it.  There is something about telling our story and showing others the path we chose to walk with Christ that is therapeutic for me.  I find great satisfaction in spreading the gospel, while showing how it has kept me and my family from drowning in emotions that we don’t have to face alone because of our faith in the Creator.  

Over the years, I have heard wonderful testimonies from others who know Jesus.  One theme runs between many that I hear, though, that mine does not offer.  My story doesn't end, to be looked back on as a challenge overcome.  Although I know everyone’s testimony to their love of Jesus Christ is precious, mine can give another perspective.  A view, not from the shore looking back, but from in the water -- submerged, weary at times, and still fighting to stay on the surface.   

That’s what I find most intriguing about my belief in a God that allows this level of hurt, and worse, into this broken world of ours.  It’s not the pain, disappointment, anger, or bitterness that should be our focus.  It’s our Lifesaver.  It’s who is there to keep you afloat, amid the wreckage.  Sometimes, its a relief to know we can sit back and exist in our troubles for as long as needed.  No need to panic, no need to tire out.  

At the end of giving my testimony, I don’t want listeners to merely “feel good”, but instead, I strive to leave someone with a vision of perseverance, enduring faith, and trust in the Savior.

This reminds me of a time that I saw a man at his car wearing a Pro-Life t-shirt.  He had signs in his hands and all over his car.  I felt compelled to shake his hand and quickly tell him of my own experience with the question of abortion.  (To read my post about abortion, click here.)  After speaking of the choice we were given during my pregnancy, and our immediate and unwavering decision to “keep” Elise, his reaction took me by surprise.  He said, “Wonderful choice!  I bet she’s perfect now, isn’t she?”  I was stunned by how this dedicated, Christian brother of mine had so clearly missed the point.  

That moment summed up what kind of picture so many of us want to paint for our lives.  Just because you have faith in Christ, trust Him, and make decisions based on His Word, does not mean you come out on the other side unscathed.  Following Jesus can land you in deep water, up to your neck, and fighting for your life.  How wonderful, though, that it also means that no matter the outcome, you are eternally safe.   

The answer to my prayers regarding our struggles with Elise is simply that I’m still afloat.  Not only having survived with my faith fully intact, but with a renewed sense of joy that I can tread water for as long as I need to in this life, whether the shore is in sight or not. 

Me and my family, firmly in the grasp of our Lifesaver, Jesus Christ.  

Love this...

“You never said it would be easy, You only said I’d never go alone…”  

That is my favorite line from the song, “If You Want Me To”, by Ginny Owens.  This song has lifted me up time and time again.  I have included it below.  Not only is the music beautiful, but the words are worth hearing and repeating often to yourself.  For anyone out there who is going through something, big or small, no matter the circumstance, this song may bring you comfort...


  1. So wonderfully written. Thank-you.

    1. Thank you, Meg. It's not too often that I write on heavier issues, but I think we all fit into this category at some point during our lifetime!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thank you for sharing your heart! The struggles do bring us closer to Him and we begin to know the reason we MUST depend on HIM moment to moment, day by day! Jesus we trust in YOU...may He continue this powerful movement in you and your family, these are the days this powerful witness is most needed. And may you be blessed & strengthened for protecting God's angel Elise!

  4. I have to tell you the most amazing thing that happened today, I am part of a rosary group that was asked to pray the rosary at my children's school in the chapel during adoration of the eucharist. It is Catholic school's week and the student's are participating in this adoration. A woman was playing the piano and singing and I caught this line and started meditating on it. "And keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise." I started meditating on it, I then had a vision of myself treading water and I was telling myself I need to keep myself above the water as the waves were getting stronger and I was getting tired. I truly felt like I was starting to sink and then I made one last surge of strength and I felt myself being pulled into a boat. I was really exhausted and sat there trying to catch my breath. Then I felt someone grab my shoulders and say "Well done, Jo." I looked over my shoulder and saw him smiling at me and we both started laughing because I was still trying to catch my breath. It was so real because he was so natural and calming. I've never felt such joy. I realize now I too can tread water a long time but eventually we all need help and saved. Jesus saved me. And by the way, he's adorable! The song is Oceans (Where feet may fall), check out the rest of the song blew away.

  5. This is amazing! I found that song this summer, and I LOVE IT!!! I listen to the Deluxe Version from Hillside United. It's almost 9 minutes long! It is one of my absolute favorite songs, and I so wish I would have had it when I posted about treading water! I put another song on that post, which I also love, but Oceans fits perfectly... It's a wonderful praise song that is a constant reminder to me that Christ is there ALWAYS to keep us above water. Not to keep us from certain troubles, but to be there for us through them!