Trust Only: A Wet Dog, Quicksand & A Lily Pad

Wet dog on kayak with owner and lily pads and river in background hope
Nolie after landing two feet on the lily pad.

They trust not God at all who trust him not alone.

Not at all? Them’s fightin’ words. I read them once, twice, then promptly looked for a way around them. Because of course I trust in God and in other things.

Then I heard about the little dog named Nolie who stepped out onto a lily pad. And I started to think about rocks, quicksand and trust in God alone.

Nolie, named after cannoli, is my friend’s roommate’s sweet pup. Nolie went on an outing this week. It was her first time in a kayak and she liked the ride. But Nolie got an idea as they paddled through the lily pads. She decided to take a walk.

So with her hind feet planted on the kayak, she stretched one foot out on the smooth green pad. Then she landed the other. And one surprised little Nolie got very, very wet.

He will sink and perish.

So can you trust in God and trust in something else along with God to keep you safe and secure?

Well, what happens if you place two feet on the kayak and two feet on a lily pad? Or, what happens if you set one foot on a rock and one foot on quicksand?

Nolie’s walk on the lily pad makes me wonder, do I really hope and trust in God alone? Can I hope in God to redeem my life and restore my soul and also hope in other things?

If my hope is in uncertain, unstable things—my wealth or health, or my family and friends—will I not sink?

Are these not quicksand and lily pads?

They will disappoint. They will let us down. As sweet as they are, as much of a gift as they are, they are all shakable, created things. (This is a favorite post about kids growing and good endings shaking me.). All other helpers will fail me and all other comforts will flee. Only one thing will remain.

So it only makes sense to trust only in Him.

Do you trust in “God and,” or in God alone?

Now back to those fighting words. They referred to Psalm 62, including verses 5-6, which say,

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

In the Hebrew text the word only, truly, or alone occurs five times in the first eight verses. Bible scholar Derek Kidner says this little Hebrew word ak, “is an emphasizer, to underline a statement or to point to a contrast; its insistent repetition gives the psalm a tone of special earnestness.”

I think the contrast is between trust in “God and” and trust in God alone.

They trust not God at all who trust him not alone. He that stands with one foot on a rock, and another foot upon a quicksand, will sink and perish, as certainly as he that stands with both feet upon a quicksand.

John Trapp, Quoted in David Guzik’s Commentary on Psalm 62

Nolie learned that two feet on a kayak and two feet on a lily pad means the whole dog goes under. David learned that one foot on rock and one foot on quicksand means the whole man sinks—even, get this, if the rock is the Rock.

So David earnestly calls us to trust in God. Alone.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.

Nolie, and I, are with David.

Are you?

Nothing which does not shake the rock can shake the frail tent pitched on it.

—Alexander MacLaren

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken

—David, in Psalm 62:1-2, ESV

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To Those In Pain: There Is A Spacious Place

Image by jplenio from Pixabay.

I had some intense, unexplained pain last week. The constant ache made it hard to think, hard to write, and hard to smile, plus it kept me awake. Just to sit—to sit—made me wince.

My margins for movement were razor-thin. I learned that hurt constricts, that pain makes life feel tight.

Then, in the throes, I read about a spacious place.

A Spacious Place

Gathered around the coffee house table we all opened to Psalm 31. That just so happened to be the psalm on Friday.

My friends noticed. I squirmed and leaned and may have grimaced now and again, as we read about a spacious place.

I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.

Psalm 31:7-8, NIV

The Hebrew word “merchâb”—translated spacious place—means “to breathe freely, to revive, to have ample room, or to be refreshed.” Broad, expansive, wide-open places—places where we get a big view, where we can bound along, looking up, sure-footed, free. Other Bible translations might call this place of abundance, a “broad,” “large” or “wide” place.

It’s the opposite of my narrow, constricted space, and it’s not the only time we find the phrase.

  • “He brought me into a spacious place, he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19, NIV
  • “When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place.” Psalm 118:5, NIV

You get the picture. It’s a big-breath, take-it-all-in vista, a free-to-roam, wide-open safe place.

It’s where I want to be physically, emotionally, spiritually.

He Leads

How do we get there?

God must lead. At least that’s what I see in those three verses. I read, he brought, he brought, he set my feet. By his own hand, He leadeth me. I can’t lead me.

A few days after the Psalm 31 study, an ultrasound showed a 9 cm and a 5 cm cause of pain. There is cause for concern and for surgery. But there is no room for worry. The doctors say it’s not likely to be the dreaded C.

But it could be. God already knows, and we shall see.

Meanwhile, the King of Love leads me. 

Jesus Christ, Our Spacious Place

J. Todd Billings wrote a book in the wake of his cancer diagnosis. It’s his meditation on Psalm 31:7-8. I have not read it, except this brilliant beginning:

One thing about the experience of being diagnosed with cancer is that it feels like a narrowing, a tightening, rather than “a spacious place” to dwell. . . . It feels a bit like the lights in distant rooms are turning off or, rather, flickering. They were rooms that you were just assuming would be there for you to pass through in future years. The space starts to feel more constricted, narrowed. . . .

In light of all this, it is important to remember a distinctive entryway that Christians have into this Psalm—that through God’s victory, our feet have been placed in “a spacious place.” Ultimately, to be and to dwell in Christ is to dwell in the most “spacious place” imaginable. In our culture, to focus one’s trust and affection on one hope—Jesus Christ—strikes many as narrow or risky. But because of who Jesus Christ is [the Alpha and Omega, and the One in whom all things hold together], to dwell in him is to occupy a wide, expansive place.

Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ 

Take that in. To dwell in Christ is to dwell in the most “spacious place” imaginable. Now breathe out.

Already & Not Yet

I just said I’m waiting for God to take me to a spacious place. At the moment, there are constrictions and restrictions and, now and then, a moan. I’m not in that expansive place yet, physically or in my family.

But in a very real way, God has already brought us—even us in pain—there already. Because in Christ, we are free (John 8:36). In Him, we live abundantly (John 10:10).

Meanwhile we groan. Surgery, biopsies and court dates await.

And God is with us. The best is yet to be.

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

Isaiah 64:4

He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction,

to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.

Job 36:16

How Long Do I Wait? The Only Safe Rule

How long to wait person with clock

How long do you wait? Not, how long do you wait in the drive-thru or the phone queue before you opt out?

I mean, how long until you remind or text the “❓“ or ask again? Do you anguish over that?

Sometimes I do.

How Long Do I Wait?

Lots of times I jump the gun. Ask my husband. Too many times to count I remind him of what he knows and, in a little way, betray the trust. And ask my sister-in-laws about the cherry Butter-braids I bought and the Horny Toad dress I lent—times my reminders hurt, not helped, the cause.

Because patience is a thing for me. Because the initiator, performer me likes to move. But the Jesus follower me needs to wait.

Yesterday I struggled. I drafted a friendly reminder to a friend who promised to send some key details about a project. But I deleted the text. But since Saturday was prime time to get this ball rolling, a few hours later, I drafted a text again. And deleted it again.

I have not so great a struggle with my vices, great and numerous as they are, as I have with my impatience. My efforts are not absolutely useless; yet I have never been able to conquer this ferocious wild beast.

French reformer John Calvin said that. I’m with him. My family and honest friends would agree.

How many times have I reminded my husband only to find he remembered? How many times have I sent a “❓“ when my text to a friend goes unanswered only to find she was on it?

Wait Beyond Your Waiting Point

Too many. For every one time I wait beyond my natural “waiting point,” there are two times I don’t. Times my impatience betrayed my weakness. Because strong people can wait.

But how do we grow and gain strength? Physically and spiritually, it’s the same. We must push ourselves, stretch ourselves past the pain point. To maintain we can do what we do—I can run the same 4 miles every day and do the same 150 saddle-backed pushups every other day and I’ll maintain fitness and muscle.

But I won’t grow. In order to grow stronger or faster, I’ve got to run the mile faster, or go two miles longer, or straighten my arms and my back for those push-ups.

To grow in spiritual strength, we must leave our comfort zones too. In his divine power (see 2 Peter 1), we must push my “patience-muscles” to new limits. When I wait it’s because I remember the truth that in our struggle we grow strong.

That means for me to grow more patient, I’ve got to make myself wait—to send or say—to the point where I feel like I can’t wait a second longer. And then wait.

And the times I’m able to do that, it’s because I’m playing by this rule.

The Only Safe Rule

C.S. Lewis was dealing with giving not waiting when he offered this rule. But when I anguish over how long I should wait, I find in his answer my only safe rule. [Mine.]

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give [wait]. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give [wait] more than we can spare. […] If our giving [waiting] does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small.

Mere Christianity, 82.

That’s the rule. Spend more time waiting than I can comfortably spare. My rule of thumb for waiting is that if I don’t feel pinched, I haven’t waited long enough.

My rule of thumb for waiting is that if I don’t feel pinched, I haven’t waited long enough.

Love Waits

Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember that God is patient too and think of all the times when others have to wait for you.

I won’t lie. I sing Herbert the Snail’s song more now than I did in third grade. I’m not sure if I’m less patient or only more aware of my impatience. But when I remember how often others wait for me, it helps me wait for others.

Because my impatience is not love. It’s preferring my pace to theirs, and my time as more precious than theirs. It’s not thinking of others as better than myself. It’s not love. Because, love is patient. Love waits.

My loving friend waits for me when I’m late for our coffee date. My loving husband waits for me with the car pointed out Sunday morning. And my longsuffering Lord waits for me to wait every single day.

I’m not what I will be and I’m not what I should be. But, thank God, I am more patient than I was. I am learning— to wait longer before I hit send, to wait longer before I ask again, to wait longer before I text the “❓“.

Remember that text I drafted and deleted, then drafted and deleted again? How I waited longer than “I could spare”?

Well, round about 6 o’clock last night, this came.

“Sorry, Abigail, that I didn’t get back to you earlier.”

God smiled.

And I was so glad I waited.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy…

Colossians 1:11

The Flat on the Way to the Fair: Faith, Fire and Why Trials Come

God will take you where you do not want to go to produce in you what you cannot achieve on your own. –Paul Tripp

Inefficiency. Futility. Wasted time. Those are villains in my kingdom, three of my greatest foes. And they all piled into the van with me yesterday

9:30- The dew was still on the clovers and we-Cream Puff vouchers in hand- were off, like barn clothes after chores. State Fair was one of a handful of “non-negotiables” on our summer calendar; a taste of good Midwestern fun for our Korean exchange son, Ki-Bum. 

State Fair or Bust.

9:45- KER-PFUMP, KER-PFUMP, KER-PFUMP, KER-PFUMP.  So our right rear tire unceremoniously gave up its ghost. And the van came to rest along a lovely bachelor button-ed strand of I-43.

Rare, declared Ki-Bum knowingly. I nodded.  

Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials…

Thankfully, Jim picked up the phone. We have roadside assistance, he assured,  Can you find the card? 

I did. And was soon informed that help would arrive within the hour. A little while. Various trials. 

Hey Mom, can we watch some Get Smart?  Gabe piped up, as his fearful tears dried. I brought them along, just in case. And Agents 86 and 99 and the old “Spy in the dog suit, phone in the tie” tricks passed three boys’ time. Now I can get a jump on those email. 

11:00- A Nissan pickup stopped behind us. Never mind that the tow truck was on another call or the four larger towns with towing services closer than this town. Not this guy’s fault.

These older vans with spares underneath- they can be a bear to release, Scott explained as he turned the giant screw driver round and round. But the spare wouldn’t drop. So he jacked us up and worked below while I worked that stubborn screw from above.

Well, I’m sorry. Scott finally said. If I had the tow truck, I could probably break it  loose, but the cable’s corroded. And maybe  this time ask for Rhode’s when you call. They’re just right up the road.

11:20- Scott rode off in his rugged Pathfinder.

…So that the tested genuineness of your faith- 

As  Agent 99 assisted 86, an agent three states away assisted me. I calmly described the first failed attempt  to put on the spare. And maybe Rhode’s  Service this time? I heard they’re in your network and just a a mile or two up the road.

May I put you on hold? she asked. 

Ms. Wallace? We have located roadside service for you. It’s the same shop as the first, but this time they’ll come with a tow truck. They should arrive in 45 minutes.

11:30- Here’s where my faith  faltered: Really? Really? You can’t find anyone closer? East Troy? Elkhorn? Waterfod? Burlington? Rhode’s is right up the road! I’ve been here almost two hours and there’s a town with a towing service a mile away. Scott-who you sent first -told me. 

Yes, Ms. Wallace. Your service should arrive within 45 minutes. They’ll be able to tow your vehicle, but you’ll need to secure a ride home. 

-More precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-

Tow it back? I just have a flat. The spare is right here. Their shop is 30 minutes south. We’re headed 30 minutes north- to the fair. And I’m supposed to secure a ride? 

Yes. I’m sorry, Ms. Wallace. Your tow should be there in 45 minutes. Is there anything else I can do for you?

Images of cream puffs and jersey cows and racing rabbits danced out of my head. Unlikely, I said.

11:40- What to my wondering eyes should appear but a Rhode’s tow truck behind me right here! Forget 45- this took 10!  I leapt from my seat to meet the Ken. He glanced at the flat, then down at his phone, Oh wait. You’re not the red ’05 Escape, are you?  

That’s probably the one up there, I said, pointing to the SUV that stopped on the shoulder a half hour after we had.

Sorry, ma’am. That’s the one I came for. Maybe I’ll check in with you after.  And Ken inched his truck up to the red ’05 Escape just ahead.

…May be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Chaos agents had captured Maxwell Smart and 99.

11:45- Jim, This is crazy. I’m waiting for the same towing service that couldn’t help me to come back as I watch a tow truck from a garage 2 minutes away helping a a vehicle 300 yards ahead. And Rhode’s does partner with our roadside assistance- Scott and Ken both told me so and how do I find a ride when they tow the van? 

Hon. I’ll see what I can do. Maybe Merten’s can tow you back to town. Sorry about the fair. 

God will take you where you do not want to go – or stall you where you do not want to stay- to produce in you what you cannot achieve on your own.

12:00- I paused my pity-party just long enough to see Ken’s truck backing toward us.

12:05 -Bring ‘er on up, Ken urged. So I eased the van onto the flatbed and all five of us crammed into the cab. Rare, I told Ki-Bum. And before Ken and I could connect all the dots around my Uncle Kevin who had been Ken’s friend, we were stopped in Rhode’s lot.

12:30- On the road again. State Fair or Bust. Or whatever’s necessary.

Why Trials Come

I wish I could say that Paul Tripp quote guided me through the flat. But I absolutely cannot.

But thank God, I can see it in the rear-view. I can see the grumbling, ungrateful, proud, impatient dross that tarnished my faith and needed boiling off. It was necessary.

So God allowed the blow-out. Then he sent Scott, without a tow truck, and Ken to the red ’05 SUV in front of us. He held off Rhode’s from up the road. All of it was in his good plan, to purify the precious faith He loves so much, a faith of greater worth than gold.

So why do trials come? I’ll answer that one with three more from Paul Tripp:

What kind of Messiah do you want? Do you want a Messiah that will deliver to you your ever-morphing definition of what would make you happy? Do you want your Messiah to make your kingdom work or do you want a Messiah to welcome you to a better kingdom?

I don’t know about you, but I want Him to welcome me to a better kingdom than my own efficient, productive, no-wasted-time little kingdom. More even than an idyllic morning at my beloved State-Fair kingdom. Way, way more.

A Sure Sign Of His Love

So I’m with Tripp: We’d better quit naming our trials and difficulties as a sign of God’s unfaithfulness and inattention. In the life of a believer those trials are a sure sign of His faithful, persevering, redemptive love. And with the Getty’s too: When trials will come, no longer fear, For in the pain our God draws near, To fire a faith worth more than gold, And there His faithfulness is told. 

God will trouble and shake us and allow trials that boil our faith, not because he’s mean and capricious but because he loves us and wants to welcome us to a more glorious kingdom. But it might feel dangerous, because he won’t relent until our faith is refined. Until we glisten with the image of His beloved Son.

Waiting in the van, I heard the Chief of Control say, Max, you realize that you’ll be facing every kind of danger imaginable? Max replied, And  loving it. 

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor.
 1 Peter 1:6-7