I can't swim. I can dog-paddle like crazy, with my head bobbing around in the water and my hands and feet kicking along, but if my head goes under water I panic...and I do mean panic. My Dad used to tell my sisters and me that we could go swimming as soon as we learned how to swim! Now Daddy was an excellent swimmer. He swam in Green River, in lakes and ponds, but he was also afraid of water. Not for himself...but for us. You see, in his generation, the only place boys could go swimming was in the lake or pond on the farm, or in the river. And more than once he had been present when someone had drowned in the swift flowing waters of Green River, and he knew the fear of seeing that lifeless body pulled from a muddy river with a current so fast it could pull down the biggest, strongest, fastest of swimmers before anyone could even know he was gone.
I did not let my boys go swimming in lakes or ponds. When Jeff was about 6 and Bryan about 3, David and I took them to Kentucky Lake for a few days and we swam at the beach area. Bryan and I stayed mostly on the shore, (after all I didn't want to embarrass myself or anyone else with my dog-paddling technique) but Jeff and David had a "big time" playing in the water, that is, until David and I got to talking, then looked around and couldn't find Jeff!! To this day I can feel the sickness of fear that started in the pit of my stomach, surged through my heart and got stuck right in my throat. As my eyes scanned the top of that water, looking intently at each little 6 year old boy, praying that he was there and just hiding or caught up in the mix of faces, arms, and legs that were splashing around in the water, it was at that moment that I knew for the first time as a Mom what it felt like to not be able to find your child.
Well, for those of you who know us, then you know that David is very calm, level headed, a take charge kind of guy. And that is exactly what he did. I stood there helplessly on the shore, in a near state of panic, ready to scream at the top of my lungs, while David jumped in the water and went to the place they had been playing, just a short distance from shore. At 6, Jeff was already a good swimmer, but there's just something about water, a 6 year old boy, and a Mom who can't see her son, that is not a pretty picture! David spotted him with a group of kids messing around with a tire inner tube, but needless to say, my day was ruined. I felt so sick I thought I would die, and I was ready to go home. And that was just at Kentucky Lake. Now why would someone with my water phobia take her family to the ocean?? But we did. A few times when the boys were small we did the Florida thing, but they were young, not too adventurous and were content to play in the sand or in the edges of the water. But then they grew up.
When Jeff and Dana were engaged to be married our family planned a week's vacation in Destin, Fl. We had rented a beach house, invited Dana to go with us, and our son Bryan invited his best friend Shawn to join us. We rented jet skis, played golf, did all the fun stuff, and the kids messed around in the water occasionally the first few days we were there, but we stayed so busy, they didn't have time to do much "ocean stuff."
Toward the end of the week, David and I were burned to a crisp, (literally) but we all walked down to the beach, David and I sat in the shade of a beach umbrella, (no joke) and slept! The "kids" even our 11 year old, Kyle, were in the water and after a while, David looked up and said, "They are too far out. They really need to get back to shore." And what did I do? I panicked. I jumped up and began yelling and motioning for them to come back, then David said, "I don't think they can." Oh my word! Didn't he know by now that you don't tell me something like that, in quite that way? But I knew he was scared, too. He ran into the water and they were waving, calling for help, all hanging onto a raft, and David began swimming along the beach. After a while, they were able to pull together and start for shore, and as they lay in the sand, exhausted, they began to tell about their experience and all I could do was sit there and thank God that they were there, right beside me, right where I could see them. And still, all these years later, I think about that afternoon. And each time that memory comes to my mind, I pause in what I am doing and breathe a prayer of thanks to God that He brought them out of that undertow and brought them safely to shore. I know beyond a doubt that He protected my children that day.
Ladies, just as an undertow can pull a swimmer away from shore and out into deep water, unbelief is an undertow that pulls us away from God and out into the deep water of sin. A swimmer can't look at the water and automatically tell what's going on underneath. But suddenly there is a scary pulling on your body and before you know it, the shore is barely in sight. And unbelief is a stronghold that keeps pulling and pulling and pulling until we are so far from God that we don't know if we can ever get back. It is so subtle, so sneaky that God is here and you are there and you don't know how it got that way so fast.
I heard recently on a news show that if you are ever caught in an undertow, the most important thing you can do is to "stay focused." If you panic and loose your focus, you'll be pulled down and away from shore.
If you and I are going to have a strong belief in the promises of God that will build a strong marriage, raise godly children in a world that has a negative agenda toward the family, and have an influence with people, we must stay focused and not get caught in the undertow of unbelief.
The Bible calls unbelief a sin; Hebrews 3:12; "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, departing from the Living God."
And our enemy uses the same ole line on us that he did with Eve; "Did God really say that?"
God told Eve, "Don't eat from the tree of good and evil or you will die."
Satan said, "Did God really say that?"
Jesus said, "With God nothing is impossible." Luke 1:37.
Unbelief says, "But what about........?"
Jesus said, "I will work everything for your good." Acts 8:28.
Unbelief says, "But that surely doesn't mean.........
Jesus said, "And ALL things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing (no unbelief), you shall receive."
Unbelief says, "But surely He didn't mean........."
Jesus said, "Whosoever calls on My name will be saved." Romans 10:13.
Unbelief says, "Yeah, but does that mean you?" Yesssssssss dear sister that means you.
Here is a checklist for the next time you find yourself in an undertow of unbelief;
1. "Where is my focus?"
Am I thinking about how hard that is, or, am I focused on the God Who does impossible things?
2. Don't live by sight, feelings, or emotional responses; live by the truths of God's Word. Choose to think about what He says about Himself.
3. Be careful who you listen to. Not everyone has a biblical worldview, so their "advice" or take on your situation, may drive you deeper into the undertow. Choose wise, godly counsel.
4. Stay in the Word and read, read, read, read. And refuse to stop reading and praying until you are free from the pull of the undertow of unbelief and safely on shore.
And yes, we've been back to the ocean many times since that July afternoon over 20 years ago, but we've learned our lesson about undertows. I wish I could say I've always had faith and never experienced the doubt of unbelief, and I wish I could say I'm always focused. But I sure am trying!!
Thanks for reading!