The Bible says “When you walk through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you pass through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3)
That’s an amazingly comforting verse, especially when our circumstances and surroundings become overwhelming. But below the surface there is a stronger message than just that God will protect us in time of trial.
On our last trek out west, my group did a hike that required a waist-deep river crossing. The river wasn’t swift – it was basically a continuation of a flooded lake – but it took some forward planning to get through with dry clothing, let alone dry packs, shoes, and other gear.
About 6am we donned bathing suits and water shoes and headed for the ford. The air was so cold we had all been wearing sweatshirts a few minutes before, and that water was a fair bit colder yet.
After 30 feet of hopping from rock to rock somewhere below the surface of the water, we finally slogged out onto the far bank of the crossing, shivering and triumphant. Now we’d just have to do it again on the way back!
Late in the day, some 14 miles of hiking later, we arrived back at the ford, stripped the clothes from over our bathing suits, donned water shoes, and again waded across the water, hopping from rock to rock hidden somewhere below the surface of the water. And on the other side, we trotted back off to the parking area, shivering in the cool night air.
But you know what? That hike was listed by many in the group as one of their top three destinations on that trip. The view at the top of the mountain made it a winner, but the frigid river crossing didn’t hurt. Why? Because in it we had a shared experience. We had all braved the water, we had all felt its chill, we had all made it through to the other side – together.
So when God says that He will “be with us in the water”, He’s talking about comfort, yes, and presence, but He’s also talking about building relationship; building history, as some would say. This is more than just survival; it’s discovering who God is for you in this moment; it’s going through life with God and becoming closer not because of trials or tribulations but because we are in it, together.
The waters don’t have to be a trial. Our river crossing was a hindrance, but we turned it into an adventure (and a cold adventure at that!) It became known as “the hike with the river crossing”, not negatively, but positively as a fun diversion from normal trail life.
God is with you in the waters, whether it seems like a trial or an adventure or simply a diversion from “normal”. He desires to build relationship there, in the shared experience with you.