When I was a teenager, I was an avid and competitive swimmer. I spent a lot of time at the community pool swimming repetitive laps with the team, assisting swim lessons for younger children and doing anything I could to fill those summer days with water splashes, hot sun and chlorine-filled air. It was my happy place, for sure.
As I got into my later teen years, it made perfect sense to take the next step in my community pool commitment: become a lifeguard and actually get paid for being there all the time! HA! I was a strong swimmer already, so I just needed to complete the necessary training and certification. A simple formality, I thought.
While I was physically capable of the swimming requirements, I didn’t adequately anticipate the emotional challenge of a rescue. The first and most difficult part of lifeguarding is convincing the person in danger to stop flailing, fighting and panicking. While she is terrified (and currently choking down water and likely lacking oxygen,) she needs to be calmed enough to stop all her own efforts and trust someone else with her life. It’s what needs to happen so the lifeguard can get her in the best position for rescue and swim both of them to safety. But it’s SO counterintuitive to the one needing to be rescued. Everything inside of her is telling her to keep struggling; don’t give up control; fight for your life!!
The problem is, her fight is only making her rescue more challenging. It’s hard to convince someone to let go of their life to save it. But that’s exactly what God asks us to do too…
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25 NIV)
It’s sometimes difficult to give up control; to release our own plans for our lives and submit to the Lord and His will. It’s human nature to think we know what’s best for ourselves. It’s wisdom to admit that we may not. It’s an act of faith to seek God first and to trust His guidance and plans for our future.
I often find myself flailing, trying to fight for plans that I’ve made; to keep things painless and free of surprises; to stay in control. Meanwhile, He continually whispers, calm down. I’ve got you. Please stop struggling and rest in my arms.
It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them. (Psalm 44:3 NIV)
He came to rescue us because He loves us, and our struggle to control our lives and outcomes only hinders the time we could be sharing in His victory. We simply can’t do what He, alone, can. We must remind ourselves that He already overcame everything this world could throw at Him. He’s claimed victory over it all, and He wants to share the blessings with us.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
My Bible study group is currently studying a book on the topic of surrender. We keep laughing at how much we each get in our own way of doing that. Instead, we’ve found that we often repeat patterns of behavior (struggles) as we struggle to give our lives completely to God. (Ah, humanity!) We know that our hope is in Christ, and if we can just believe that we truly are loved and cared for THAT much, most of our battles wouldn’t exist anymore. We know this in our heads. We just need to believe and receive it fully, so we can live in it fully.
So, we live and grow and constantly remind each other.
Constantly. Because we need the reminders; the encouragement, sharpening, spurring on. It’s more than okay to need it. We’re human. We were created this way, and we’re called to be there for each other.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)
And it helps. I promise.
Just this afternoon, some dear friends gathered in my home. We meet regularly with a shared desire to grow in our faith. Today, as is often the case, we vulnerably shared our struggles. We laughed at ourselves, cried with and for each other and reminded and encouraged each other as daughters of God; sisters in Christ. And we felt God’s presence and comfort, as we so often do when we gather together in His name (Matthew 18:20).
Then, things began to shift.
We sensed burdens lightening. We paused and reflected on victories we’ve been experiencing, even in the midst of our struggles. We reminded each other of the growth we’ve seen in each of our faith walks over the years (it’s been quite a journey!) We were even able to see God’s great love for us in some of the hardest struggles we’re going through. Collectively, we breathed easier, felt lighter and relaxed more.
We exhaled and could more calmly embrace our Rescuer. We could see His arms around us just a bit more clearly, soothing us in our struggle, reminding us Himself,
I’ve got you.
Struggles can be big, but God is bigger, and He is also in us who believe (1 John 4:15). All the time, God is working in, through and all around us. Through our relationship with Him and with others, He makes His presence known, His comfort felt, and His love abound. We can reach for Him in any direction and be reminded of His ability and goodness. His hand is always reaching for us.
He’s got us. And we have each other. And God is glorified in it all.