When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2)
Have you seen a young child learning to swim? A caring swim instructor does not expect a child to be able to swim the first time the youngster encounters the water. The instructor does not immediately take the little tike to the deep end of the pool and ask him or her to dive in. Learning to swim is a process. At first the skilled instructor simply wants the child to be comfortable and not fearful of the water. The instructor’s first objective may be to simply have the child become comfortable putting his face in the water. The instructor may next have the child stretch out in the water with little hands still firmly affixed to the side of the pool and ask the child to kick in the water. This is the beginning of learning basic strokes. Next, the instructor might use apparatuses like kickboards or floaties, inflatable cushions that slide over the child’s upper arm, to help him stay afloat. The wise instructor will over time reduce the reliance on these devices as the child becomes more skilled and learns to trust the natural buoyancy of the water to keep him stay afloat. Eventually the child will not need these aids and will be free swimming and ready to tackle the deep end of the pool.
Our heavenly father is like the wise swim instructor. He lovingly and caringly takes care of us. When we first enter our new life in Christ, his visible means of support will be evident. We embrace the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (KJV). However, like the swim instructor, God will remove those objects we rely on to help keep us stay afloat – He removes our floaties. God is not trying to teach us to swim. He has a greater goal in mind. God is trying to teach us to live by faith, with him as our sole means of support. What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 lets us know that, “now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (NIV). We can “see” a kick board or a floatie, be we cannot see the natural buoyancy of water. We have to trust that the water will support us. God lets us know that living by faith is essential to living a Christian life, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those that earnestly seek him” – Hebrews 11:6 (NIV).
Are you struggling with poor health? God has removed your floatie. Are you having relationship difficulties? God has removed your floatie. Do you find yourself in financial stratis? God has removed your floatie. This lesson was brought home to me over the last several week with the death of my former pastor and spiritual mentor – Delano R. Paige, Sr. He officiated my wedding, dedicated my children and licensed and ordained me to preach. In many ways he was a second father to me after my own father passed away. I celebrate his life and legacy, but I miss Pastor Paige terribly. As I have reflected over his passing, it’s as if God has said, “you were buoyed by Rev. Paige’s love and affirmation for you, but like water is the true source of buoyancy, I [God] and the source of true love that can keep you from sinking.” As I close I am reminded of one of Pastor Paige’s favorite commentary on Isaiah 43:2, “when God puts you in deep water, remember he’s not trying to drown you, he’s teaching you to swim.”