“Cease striving and know that I am God.”
~ Psalm 46:10a (NASB)
The other day, a friend asked how I was doing and my immediate reply was, “I feel like I’m running in quicksand!”
Have you ever had that feeling? Like those times when you are overwhelmed with all that is required of you, so you work and strive to get on top of it, only to find that you’ve fallen even further behind? I am such a Martha. I know that I miss out on life’s beautiful moments because I’m too busy working hard to make me feel better about me, rather than looking to the Lord to order my priorities. So when I fail, I fail big! The scripture that echoed in my mind as I answered my friend was Psalm 46:10 – “Cease striving and know that I am God.” It certainly fits, but what does it look like in everyday life?
I live in Southcentral Alaska, where we don’t have any quicksand to speak of, but what we do have are mudflats, which can be just as dangerous. Most beaches along the Cook Inlet aren’t sandy, but muddy. Nearby glaciers grind rock into powder-fine particles as they move down the mountains, resulting in glacial silt. It looks and feels solid enough at low tide, but as the tide comes in, those same mudflats become a lot like quicksand. Every year people get stuck, and sometimes even die before they can be rescued because of the fast rising tides. Just like quicksand, once you find yourself stuck in the mudflats, there is no use struggling; the more you try to pull free, the deeper and faster you sink. People are told that when they become stuck, the best thing they can do is relax, “cease striving,” and spread out over as much surface area as possible to slow the sinking.
And then wait.
I went to the Hebrew lexicon to find the word translated to “cease striving” in Psalm 46:10 (Strong’s 7503 – ‘raphah’). I thought it was really interesting that the definition was “sink; relax.” In light of that, we could rewrite the verse to say,
“Relax. Keep on sinking, and know that I am God.”
That would take some serious faith! But as always, God’s wisdom is wiser than that of the world; He knows that when we’re stuck in the mud, we need to relax. To wait. To sink slowly, and trust in our Rescuer. Sometimes that waiting period may be longer than we would like. It may give us some time to come to terms with our helpless state, and to realize from whom our help comes. When you think about it, whether in life or in the mudflats, any sense of control is only an illusion. Whether we acknowledge it or not, God is always the one in control. In the end, everyone ends up in the mudflats of life at one time or another, and to think we can “work” our way out is simply wrong thinking.
I think Psalm 40:1-3 is a beautiful guide for navigating our mudflat rescue:
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.”
How will our Rescuer come if we don’t cry out for help? We need to cry out to the Lord, asking for rescue, acknowledging our helpless state, and expecting him to come. But we need to do so patiently, and not lose heart or panic when things don’t move as quickly as we would like. Don’t worry, he has heard your cry!
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;”
When the firefighters arrive to help someone stuck in the mudflats, they will do one of two things. If the person isn’t too far gone, they will give him something to grab onto, pulling him out of the mud. But if he is too deep, firefighters have developed a technique to spray high powered water out of a fire hose around the person, which thins and displaces the mud, allowing him to be pulled out. Sometimes God may choose to reach his hand out to you, pulling you out of your mudflats. The mud won’t be changed, but through God’s power made perfect in your weakness, it is overcome. Other times, I think God does what the firefighters do when a person is just too deep to pull out: He thins the mud. He may actually alter your circumstances to jump start the rescue process. Only then will you have the strength to hold on and be pulled out. However it happens, the end result is the same: you’re free!
“He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.”
Not only are you free, but you will be placed on solid ground. This verse makes me think of the hymn, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…” Your mudflat time will be used to make you stronger than you would have been otherwise; to galvanize your faith and place you in a position to move forward in power and with purpose.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
~ James 1:2-4 (NIV)
Psalm 40:3 speaks to how we should respond to our rescue once we are safely removed, standing on solid ground:
“He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.”
We should not be quick to forget the ways God rescues us, and respond with praise and thanksgiving in whatever way our spirits are led to express it. “Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” We are a city on a hill! We are salt and light in a tasteless and dark world. When we see glimpses of God at work in our lives, we need to make it known, and not just to our “holy huddle” – but to those who desperately need to see, to fear the Lord and put their trust in him. It is through our mudflat times that we can demonstrate our faith in action. People are watching to see how we handle adversity, and I fear that more often than not, I blend in rather than stand out.
Maybe you’re stuck in the mud right now. Use this time to look for what God is doing in you and through you as you await rescue. If you have been rescued already, shout it from the mountaintops! Sing a new song of praise, pointing those who are still stuck to the one person who can truly save them. My prayer for us all is that we will sing that new song – maybe even while we’re still stuck in the mud! I pray that through the way we navigate the mudflats in our lives, we will glorify our Father in heaven, and be His light in an increasingly dark world.