There is a promise of the Lord that when we pass through the waters they will not overflow us. (Isaiah 43:2)
Not once or twice, but many times in life, we will pass through deep waters – circumstances that feel as though they will surely overwhelm us, swallow us up. The waters of trouble rise, and we fear that we will sink.
But, according to God’s Word, He has a gift for us - and because of it, we will not sink, we will not drown. It is the grace of “aboveness”. He does not promise that deep waters of affliction will never gather around us, but He does promise the believer that he can keep his head above the water. He promises us the precious gift of “spiritual buoyancy”!
When we are in Christ Jesus, circumstances need never be our master. We have one Master, and “in Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, we are more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37)
A drowning man may struggle, and sink by his struggling; whereas if he would grow calm and still, he could find that he floats. It is not by our own efforts that we will keep from sinking. We will float by faith, by deliberating choosing not to look at our circumstances, and grow frantic, but to look above them. “Be still and know that Jehovah is God.” (Psalm 46:10) Float buoyantly over the floods by keeping your eyes steadfastly fixed on the majesty of Christ’s finished work and righteousness.
The Power of Wings
Like eagles, we are born to soar. We are born to respond to the Upward Calling, to breathe in the lofty air of the heavenlies.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall mount up with wings as eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31) Observe the eagle: Sitting majestically on the edge of the high precipice, he watches the storm clouds gather blackness and the forked lightnings play across the dark sky. He sits perfectly still; only his eyes move, watching, waiting for a certain wind current to stir the feathers of his chest. Suddenly he screams, and hurls himself directly into the mighty wind, using the storm itself to soar higher than any other bird can soar!
God wants His children also to learn to use the storms as chariots. Our wings are waiting for us. The safety of any bird is to be on the wing. If his haunts are near the ground, or if he flies too low, he exposes himself to the fowler’s net or snare. There is safety in elevation.
How do we, who so often walk life’s paths with leaden feet, weighed down by heavy burdens, “rise up on wings like eagles”? Here is a blessed truth (that seems like a contradiction): Crushing weights are our wings. The Christian’s burdens are God-given. They are purposed to lead us to turn our hearts to Him. Then, as we trustingly respond to His invitation to “cast our burdens upon Him” (Psalm 55:6, 22), by the miracle that trust works, we will discover that our burdens are metamorphosed into a pair of wings! As we rest our weary hearts in the certainty of our Father’s love for us, in His wisdom alwayschoosing what is for our best, and in His power able to bring us through, we will find that resting is rising.
The Gift of Wings
A man walked dejectedly along, his shoulders slumped with the weight of a hundred aggravating cares, his eyes on the ground. His nerves whined with the constant strain, until finally in self-pity he cried out, “The misery of this burden is too much for one such as I am to bear!” Just then a still, small voice whispered within him: “My child, the burden was not sent to crush you, but to lift you.”
There is a legend of how the birds got their wings. It is said that although they were created with beautiful shining plumage and exquisite voices, they did not have wings at first. God laid wings down on the ground in front of them and said, “Take up and bear these burdens.” The birds hesitated, but soon obeyed and bore the burdens on their shoulders. They seemed quite heavy for awhile, but as they continued bearing them with cheerful hearts, the wings began to grow onto their shoulders, and before long the birds learned how to use them. Their weights became their wings!
We look at our tasks and burdens, and we shrink from them. But God means for them to help us, to gift us with qualities that in His omniscience He sees we so need. If we will but receive them, taking them up and binding them to our heart, we will surely discover the blessing He is wanting to give us through them. It is a paradox of heaven that the burden is not meant for me to carry, but to carry me - to lift me up closer to my God! If I will not receive a burden that my gracious Lord Himself has seen fit to fasten to my shoulders with His own hands, I will be declining an opportunity to rise up on my wings to higher realms of grace.
Hoist the Sails!
What should be the attitude of a Christian when faced with a difficult situation, a severely trying test? There is only one right attitude: unwavering trust in God. We must look to Jesus – unto Him of whom it is written, “Look, and believe”, and “Look, and live!” And with our eyes fixed there, on who He is, and on the grandeur of what He did for us, we can hoist our sails and buffet manfully the storms of life.
A mistake that commonly gets us into trouble when we are hard-pressed in conflicts and battles is to look to our emotions, our feelings. We need to get far out from that so-called harbor! Away from that oozy tide mud, from the shallows where we drag our keel gratingly along the bottom! Out to the deeps, to the open sea and the healthy breezes!
It is tempting when trials come into our lives to feel that we are facing them alone, that God has left us. It may seem that He doesn’t know my path, or even that He doesn’t care. “Seemings” and feelings are substituted for faith. A Christian sister, going through a painful experience, was despondent, feeling God’s mercies were clean gone. She had almost lost hope, when after many days, her Beloved drew near and said, “Daughter, you have been looking for Me without, in the realm of sense. All the while I have been waiting for you within; I am there. Distinguish, My child, between the fact of My presence and the emotion of the fact.”
Despite our feelings, if we are obeying Christ, we are to reckon on His dwelling in our hearts. Don’t brood over emotions, letting your moods and feelings jostle against each other like boats idly moored in a harbor. Instead, cast away distrust, and raise your canvas to the gale - trusting in Him who rules the raging of the waters!
The Way of the Fawn
I will never forget the sight! In the Pecos wilderness of New Mexico a deer stood close up against a six-foot high split-rail fence. Suddenly he spied me. With no running start, but from a dead standstill, he bounded straight up into the air and over that high fence. I would not have thought it possible!
Many poets have written of the beautiful, exhilarating leaps of which deer are capable. “She shall be sportive as the fawn, which wild with glee across the lawn or up the mountain springs,” wrote Wordsworth. And the sweet poet of Israel, David, wrote long ago that God would make us like the deer: “It is God that girds me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like hind’s (deer’s) feet, and sets me upon my high places.” (Psalm 18: 32-33) This word tells us that our Lord is willing to impart to the souls of His children a springiness and elasticity, a buoyancy, like the light steps of the fawn.
A deer can magnificently leap, with the ability God has given him, away from danger. He springs lithely up the mountains to the safety of his high places. As we trust in our God, He will give us strength for the steepest hills, enabling us to leap over our difficulties. (“For by You I can run through a troop, I can leap over a wall.” Psalm 18:29) He promises to set us securely upon our high places, bringing us by His “perfect way” to our safety. During times of testing, great responsibility, trouble, and suffering, He Himselfwill be our strength, our bravery, and our invincibility. No spirit of heaviness need hold us down, causing us to drag our feet in despondency, doubt, or fear, when God wills to make His trusting children’s feet like deer’s feet!
Rise Above It!
Rise above it - how? I want to “find my wings”, but the method so often escapes me. I have prayed to discover the key! As I’ve sought wisdom, I feel that one “key” has come to me: It is to “live thankful”.
The psalmist exhorted, “Forget not all His benefits.” (Psalm 103:2) When we forget God’s goodness, and “all the way which he has brought us” in His faithfulness (Deut.8:2), we lose our key of thankfulness. In difficult and trying times, our tendency may be to lie down and cringe beneath our loads. Unwittingly, we increase the weight of our trial by yielding to discouragement, by not remembering God’s trustworthiness, but instead doubting His love and care for us. Nothing clips our wings more than despondency and melancholy. The failure of Israel to enter the land of promise began with a small seed: there was a faint but very significant switch in their hearts - from thankfulness to discontent and complaining. (“They as it were murmured.” Numbers 1:27) This mere inclination led on, and their murmuring developed and ripened into unbelief, rebellion and ruin. Complaining is the opposite of gratitude. It is a path we start on to our peril!
Paul instructs us: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thes.5:18) This word “everything” is from one whose list of trials included cruel beatings, stonings unto death, imprisonment, perils in the wilderness and in the sea, hunger, thirst, cold, weariness and pain often, persecution, affliction, and distress that few of us will ever experience in our lifetimes. And through it all, this “bond servant of Christ”, the man Paul, gave thanks. The “how” is tied into his words, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Cor. 5:7) Of course it is not natural to feel thankful in hard times. However, it is possible to rise above our feelings, and possible to rise above our circumstances – not yielding to the appearance of things. By faith, we can refuse to be discouraged; by faith, we can set our will not to doubt. God, our loving Father, deserves to be confided in. That truth is “our wings”.
Wings of Rejoicing
A jet airplane’s turbo super-charger enables it to maintain an altitude of thirty thousand feet or more where an ordinary airplane will have lost four-fifths of its power. As Christians, who desire to walk close to God and to obey Him, we have a “super-charger” that can give us the ability to scale the heights, rising above our difficulties and looking down on them as mere clouds below us. We can keep strong at the toughest heights of life by focusing on our God who stands above all, and by rejoicing in His sufficiency.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) That joy in Him and from Him is also our “lift” - that which will cause us to “rise up with wings as eagles” far above our problems and testings, and make us able to see them from God’s perspective. The soaring eagle does not need to concern himself with how to cross a river! And we do not need to understand all God’s dealings with us before we can trust in and rejoice in Him - even when “the fig tree does not blossom, and there are no calves in the stall.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
“Count it all joy”, the Word of God teaches (James 1:2) Now that was the apostle Paul’s arithmetic! He counted differently than we tend to. We count things gain that he counted loss, and loss that he counted as gain. Perhaps that is why all through his many fiery trials he could “rejoice always”- and in the end, rejoice that he had “kept the faith”, and therefore knew a crown from Christ awaited him. According to this arithmetic, we should count our trials and ordeals as “joy”, as a delight. “I surely don’t feel joyous!” you say. Counting it all joy, reckoning it joy, is choosing to take God at His word, believing it more than we believe our feelings. “God meant it unto good,” Joseph told his brothers who had betrayed him (Genesis 50:20). He had come to understand a truth that would be written down centuries later - that “God works all things together for good for those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) As we rejoice in the Lord, our soul is exalted, lifted up. Reckon your burden and duty a delight, and God will surely make your reckoning good!
The Wings of Song
Things are not as we would like, not as self would prefer at all! To our natural thinking, and to the common sense of onlookers, this could not by any means be called a “blessed state of affairs”. When everything is going well, songs swell forth from within me wherever I go, as I rejoice at the flowers along my path. But when everything is against me, I have no song. I identify with old Job, stripped of all that was meaningful to him, as I see everything taken from me. And yet it was that same Job who spoke of “God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night.” (Job 35:10) Anyone can sing “in the day”, but when our soul is “in the night”, no man can make a song. He may try, but he will discover that it is only possible if God gives him a song.
“Be filled with the Spirit, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:18-19) Paul offers us a secret tool here by which to rise above our circumstances – not by my body or mind being quickened necessarily, but by my spirit being lifted up, if I will but use this instrument of song. Paul and Silas’ bodies still bled and ached, no doubt, from the stripes and bruises recently inflicted upon them, and the iron fetters in the filthy Philippian jail still cut mercilessly into their wounded wrists and ankles - and yet their spirits rose as free as a bird as they sang praises to God. (Acts 16:25) A song in the night is not in man’s power; it must be divinely inspired. Paul well knew of his God’s all-sufficient grace, and it was that grace that gave him a song, inspiring him to rejoice in Him even in such suffering. And the prison doors were opened!
Surely Paul and Silas also knew another helpful fact: that “Satan fears our singing much more than our sighing.” A heart able to be joyful because of steadfast trust in God routs the enemy, and sends his threatening armies fleeing - just as Jehoshaphat’s choir did when Israel was greatly outnumbered by the enemy. (II Chronicles 20:15-22) There is a mysterious something about the cheerful heart of a trusting child of God that makes the devil very uncomfortable. Sing and rejoice in your all-conquering risen Lord, even when you don’t feel like it, for He has risen so that you may rise!
A lovely little poem pictures a robin asking a sparrow why he thinks humans worry so. The sparrow answers, “Friend, I think that it must be that they have no heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.” Oh, what profound truths we could learn from God’s little creatures! Do we have a Father, or not? Psalm 37:1 states emphatically, “Fret not, in anywise.” This is a divine command! Jesus clearly forbade fretting, restlessness, anxiety, and care when He said, “Take no thought (literally, no anxious thought) for what you shall eat, or drink, or wear.” Certainly He did not mean that our lives should be without forethought, plan, or method, but rather that we should not worry about our daily needs - which he said our heavenly Father knows all about!
“Do not (even) begin to be anxious,” Paul counsels us. (Philippians 4:6) Do not open that gate! What is the use of worrying? Does it ever help anyone out of their perplexity or to escape from their trial? Can we gain anything by it? Or does it actually have the effect of unhinging our minds from being able to make wise decisions, and making us less fit for action? Physicians know that anger is injurious to our bodies; similarly, a fretful disposition, living in a state of vexation, cannot be healthy. God does not want us to hurt ourselves. Worrying not only wears us out, but it wears out those around us as well – and worse, it conveys the message to them that we are not fully convinced that our God is a good Father. It is always weakness of character to be constantly fretting and worrying, because at its roots it is distrust.
Oh, for grace to obey this command, and to be quiet, to “Be still, and know that He is God” - our loving Father, worthy of being confided in, utterly and wholeheartedly, at all times! By our fretting and fuming we forfeit precious peace when we easily could “return unto our rest”, if we would simply abandon ourselves to His care. Amidst the troubles and trials of life, this is a secret worth learning.
The Worst Lossof All
When, like a trusting child, I put my hand in the Lord’s, the power of wings can become mine, and I can rise from my prison or from my tiring, difficult road up to the high heaven of rest. The sea of life may ebb and flow all around me, but Christ is my Rock, and the Rock does not ebb and flow.
The just shall live by faith.” (Hebrews 10: 38) Faith is like putting a letter in the mailbox. If I hold onto the letter, it won’t go anywhere; I have to let it go. I may write someone a letter, but if I never mail it, it doesn’t do him any good! “Commit your way unto the Lord” means turn your case over to God, give it up – out of your hands, and over completely into His. When we commit, and trust Him, the scripture goes on to say, “then He works”. (Psalm 37:5) We may not immediately see Him working, but think of the disheartened children of Israel trapped with the Red Sea in front of them and Pharoah’s army fast approaching behind them. They slept a very fitful sleep that desperately hopeless night, no doubt. And yet, “all that night the Lord worked” (Exodus 14:21). The real miracle was not the next morning when they saw the great sea parted and a way made through it; the miracle was all during the night, when they could see nothing, andyet all the while God was at work. And so it may be in our lives. Although we cannot see anything through our darkness, if we believe, He works.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Long ago Elijah told a poor widow (who had only enough flour and oil for a final meal before she died) to feed him first. Rather audacious! But, he also gave her a promise from God: that she would never run out of food. The woman responded in faith for what she hoped for - yet could not see. And in due season, her faith became sight!
Friend, we may lose our possessions, honor and position, friends or loved ones, yet none of these sad losses compares to losing a believing heart. The loss of faith is life’s greatest loss. Jesus did not intervene between Peter and failure, but He did intervene between Peter and his loss of faith. Hold on, dear brother or sister, hold on, hold on!