"Life is mighty chancy at any kind of trade..."
I don't wade swift streams any more, if I can help it, even when the best fishing is on the other side. The rocks are too slippery, the currents are too strong, my balance is too uncertain, and my old legs aren't what they used to be.
I see it as a parable: so many challenges I once took on readily are now too challenging for me. Like the psalmist, I lose sleep at night wondering how I can negotiate them (77:1-4).
But then I remember the "deeds of the LORD." I read that his "path led through the sea, his way through the mighty waters." He surged through the Red Sea as I would wade a tiny brook.
Furthermore, he "lead his people like a flock." Like a good shepherd he brought all Israel safely through the Red Sea to the other side. No one was left behind, no one was abandoned, no one was swept away.
All of us face difficult and dangerous crossings in our life-time-a transition to a new place or position, a decision to abandon a sinful practice and make a new beginning, a choice to walk a way we would rather not go, a call to venture ourselves in untried service, a retirement that takes us from prominence to a lower profile, or our final crossing through the river "bitter and cold." Yet we need not fear the dark currents for God does not fear them. His strength and courage are infinite. He will see us through.
Yet, the psalmist observes with some wonderment, he "leaves no footprints" as he accompanies us. Just as the sand in the bottom of a stream hides our footprints as soon as they are imprinted, so God's presence, as real as our own, is hidden from us. He is with us, "walking incognito," as C. S. Lewis said, and thus we may not realize he is present. But, Lewis continues, "the incognito is not hard to penetrate. The real labor is to remember, to attend," to make ourselves think about his presence; to acknowledge that he is at our side.
Furthermore, though we cannot see God's footprints in our crossings, he is incarnate in human agents that we can see. At the Red Sea he led Israel "through the hand of Moses and Aaron." Now, he leads us in the wise counsel of a mother, in the strong grip of a father, in the urgings of godly brother or sister, in the quiet encouragement of a caring spouse, in the gentle touch of a child.
How many hands have reached out to us-guiding us, encouraging us, strengthening us. In them we perceive the hand of our Lord leading us through deep and dangerous waters to the other side.
Hard crossings are inevitable, but our Lord has promised: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you" (Isaiah 43:2).
I came to the swift, raging river,
And the roar held the echo of fear;
"Oh, Lord, give me wings to fly over,
If You are, as You promised, quite near."
But He said, "Trust the grace I am giving,
All-pervasive, sufficient for you.
Take My hand-we'll face this together;
But My plan is not over, but through."