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.
Ruth Mills says
Amen, Mary! May we love better by trusting The One in control Who is always present more & more! Blessings!
Pauline Mukwamba says
This is absolutely beautiful
Kathy Cheek says
When I was teaching our teenage girls to drive, especially the first one, I remember the extreme anxiety and I really remember biting my nails, and I wasn’t even a regular nail biter. Then I told myself, God is watching over her, and I don’t think He’s biting His nails over these driving lessons. It comforted me to think of Him not fretting and it gave me a sense of calm that made the job much easier to continue.
Well said. Thank you for this, Mary. It’s a helpful visual to think of trusting God as though our loved ones were physically encapsulated with His protection and love just as they truly are in an unseen way.
I love the visual of trust being like a life jacket! “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.” Two of my kids are driving now. I’m learning to let God be their life jacket out on the roads and trust God for their well-being and safety.
Thank you so much for this timely sharing. My husband has had Covid and pneumonia for the past month. He was hospitalized during the onset as he was so sick. This has been a trial by fire for both of us. I also had Covid at the same time.
The first three weeks of his illness, I prayed along with a host of dear friends and family. God pulled him through the crisis. I hung on to every breath he breathed and every time the horrendous cough wracked his body. God’s “life jacket” around him was tight.
However, I kept trying to take off my “life jacket” to scurry around doing everything to heal him. I am still trying to do everything to control the outcome.
Thank you, Mary, for sharing this wonderful visual of God’s life jacket around each one of us. And God’s life jackets are custom made!
I was reading a book and the one of the characters was asked what her first memory of God was. Not, what you did in regards to God (ie. prayed for forgiveness). But of who God is or his character. As I thought for a moment, a memory returned. When I was about 10 missionary friends of our family gave us the news that the wife had breast cancer. I, along with hundreds of others prayed for healing. After all, my young mind thot, who deserved healing more than a missionary? Well, God chose to take her home. Fast forward to today. I, too am a fixer, “take care of” everyone, notice what people might need and am a personal life saver. Lots of things have happened and I have learned to trust God’s love and care, BUT I think my fixer mentality came out of my childish belief that God didn’t take care of that situation, so I ’d better take care of whatever I can because he might not again. I was gobsmaked by that realization. I’m afraid it hasn’t radically changed my fix it-ness but being aware can take some of the compulsion out of it as well as my ability to let go of things I have no control over. So what is your first memory of who God is? How has it affected your life?
Thank you Mary, for this great article! As the mom of a college freshman and new “empty nester”, this really spoke to my heart and was just what I needed!
Thank you for this. Praise God! I need to trust God with those I love, not seeking to control things. I need to stop holding on so tightly, to let go and let God.
Maggie Miller says
I loved this article. We can always trust His life jacket.
Beth Williams says
Pastor Steven Furtick says “Worry is when I start with my situation. Instead of starting you meditation with your situation start with your source.” “Worship is worry in reverse.” We need to learn to trust God with those we love. Pray to Him & see how He can handle the situation better than you can imagine.