Sometimes we know we are certainly going to drown.
The waters are roaring, racing in white currents outside their safe limits, their cold spray laughing at us as the surge continues to rise.
What is figurative to us was real to the Israelites in Joshua 3 as they crossed the Jordan River, swollen from spring rains and melting snow from a nearby mountain. On one side, they watched the waters rising up “in a heap,” threatening to swallow them whole if God removed his miraculous command. But they were called to walk through on the dry river bottom. Step by step.
Are you watching the waters rise up in a heap about you, ready at any moment to engulf you? Are you feeling their spray?
Standing in the deepest, most dangerous spot on the water-walled path through the Jordan was the Ark of God. The presence of God himself stood firm as each man, woman, and child passed safely by.
Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan (Joshua 3:17).
The Lord doesn’t blaze a trail in front of us and then lose track of us as we struggle out of the rising river behind him. He doesn’t tell us to go ahead and find our way, and he’ll come behind and hopefully run into us later. Like a loving mother holding back traffic while her children cross a busy street, our Father stands in the deepest, darkest, most dangerous valleys with us, holding back the waters till we are safely through. Apart from his perfect will, no speeding truck or rogue wave will hurt his precious child. They’ll have to get through him first.
This is who God is. He never asks us to go where he hasn’t gone first. He is present in our troubles. Though you feel alone, you are never alone. Though you fear being overwhelmed, no danger will touch you unless that’s what God decides is best; and then it won’t be a danger anymore, but a gift chosen by your Father to draw you closer to himself.
Trials will come. But no raging river or cresting wave, no job loss or loneliness, no sickness or sorrow will overcome you, child of God. The presence of the Lord, no longer housed in an Ark, holds back the wave of every true danger and ushers you gently and firmly onto the other side. God stands firm while you pass through.
Before closing up the roaring river, the Lord instructed the Israelites to gather stones from the very place in the Jordan where the Ark of God stood that miraculous day, and set them up as a monument to remind them of the active presence of God.
God knows his people easily forget his work on their behalf. We walk through a parted river one day and wallow in unbelief the next. God has been faithful in each of our lives. What stones have we gathered from points on our perilous journey where God has allowed us to pass through safely? What can we point to and tell our children, “Look kids, that’s where God showed his strength in my life. That’s where God stood with me in the waters.”
Whether you’re currently in the deepest part of the river or on the other side gazing at your pile of stones, be sure that God is not done with you. He is actively leading, guiding, building, and accomplishing things we may only see clearly, and with great gratitude, from the other side.