It happened in a span of minutes. One moment I handed a fresh loaf of pumpkin cake to my neighbor and, minutes later, I was falling off the single step of her front porch, rolling my ankle in the process. Feeling something “snap” across the top of my foot, I went from zero to ten on the pain scale in an instant. Unable to get back to my feet, my neighbor bent down and lifted me to balance on my good foot. Then together, we hopped to her couch to devise a plan. I couldn’t walk or put any weight on my right leg. And based on the speed of the swelling, I needed to get to the ER.
Two hours and an x-ray later, we learned my foot didn’t appear to be broken. But it was twice its normal size — something that could not be ignored. So they scheduled me an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon a few days later, where we got even better news: no surgery required. The bad news, however? I was prescribed a boot and no driving for three weeks.
That may not sound like bad news, but for a woman who moves at warp speed, it felt impossible. Ours is an often overwhelming life with full-time jobs and three non-driving teenagers still at home. Also, we were on the verge of the holiday break including Christmas and New Years’ celebrations. How could I get everything done without being able to walk or drive?
I did, in fact, survive. But I learned a hard lesson in the process: I don’t do “still” very well.
In fact, I don’t do “still” at all. Instead, I pushed my limits and walked sooner than I was supposed to. As a result, the swelling came back, as did the pain. Worse, it took longer for me to heal than it should have. My attempts to shorten my rest actually prolonged it. Rather than help me regain my strength, my dogged determination to keep moving in my own strength sapped it. I was weaker — not stronger — due to my stubborn refusal to rest.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, the prophet addressed a similar stubbornness in God’s people. Rather than a foot problem, they had a rebellion problem. Like me, they were stubborn and self-sufficient. Rather than trusting in God’s presence and provision, they preferred allegiance to the seemingly powerful nation of Egypt. After all, Egypt and all of her horses and chariots appeared strong, invincible, and impressive. So God’s people chose busyness over submission, confidence in the tangible rather than trust in the divine. As a result, they ended up even weaker than before.
Through the prophet, God gave them a stern rebuke:
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.”
But you would have none of it.
Whenever I read Isaiah 30:15, I want to skip over that last part of the verse. I’d rather sit in the promise than face my stubbornness.
Like Israel, God has told me, again and again, the secret of true strength: Trust. Trusting in God and His strength is where I’ll find my own. In relationship with Him is where I’ll find my soul’s rest so that I can endure the day-to-day of real life. Too often, however, I prefer to climb onto the horses of my own willpower and self-determination. Like the Israelites, I waste far too much time flexing my Egyptian muscles before I realize how utterly ineffective they are.
I don’t need more human strength. I need Divine-delivered rescue. And this is where I’ll find it:
- Repentance and Rest. To find new strength, we must admit we have no ability to save ourselves. This is where it starts, with admitting our need and relinquishing our control to the God who is worthy of it. We can rest knowing God is at work. And His work accomplishes far more than ours. God, I confess I have spent too many days and years trying to save myself, trying to earn my rescue. I am weak and weary. I repent of my stubborn dependence on myself and other lesser saviors. Instead, I choose to rest in you. You are what I need most of all.
- Quietness and Trust: Whereas rebellion is loud, submission is soft. The more we resist, the louder and busier we become. But God isn’t inviting us to work harder and control more. He is inviting us to relinquish our grip on our own lives, and in quietness, to trust him. I know it seems paradoxical, nonsensical. But letting go of our own lives is actually the means to true freedom and peace. God, I confess that I’ve held so tightly to my own life that it is often painful. I don’t want to live this way anymore. I give my life to you. Quiet my soul with your nearness, soothe my worry with your faithfulness. I trust you.
It’s been more than a month since that mishap on my neighbor’s front porch. The foot is still healing, slowly. It wasn’t how I imagined spending the end of 2022. And yet, it was likely exactly how I needed to spend it. As a result, this new year comes with a little more strength.
What about you? How will you respond to our God’s invitation of repentance and rest, quietness and trust? A gentle word of warning: Watch your step. Choose your true Savior now, before you find yourself flat out on the ground. He’s strong enough to hold you.