They nicknamed me “the woman who falls down” and it was true.
When my family moved to Papua New Guinea a few years ago, we spent a month living in a community surrounded only by locals. We barely knew the language, struggled to build a cooking fire (seemingly the most basic of household skills) and slid on slick trails everywhere we went.
I was especially clumsy and half the time we walked anywhere I ended up on the ground, covered in mud. Our new friends made good-natured jokes at my expense, laughing as they said, “Someone needs to help the woman who falls down.”
I never thought I would be so desperate for solid ground under my feet.
Papua New Guinea isn’t the only place where I feel like I deserve the title “the woman who falls down.” I’ve had life seasons of life — sometimes long ones — when I’ve struggled to find my footing. Sometimes a sudden crisis disrupts me; other times my unsteadiness comes from an ongoing difficulty or struggle. Either way, the feeling of falling is frightening.
What’s scarier than falling? Feeling like God himself is the one who led me to unstable ground. I believe that he could have changed my circumstance or at least given me warning about the heartache that was coming. But he didn’t. I’ve obediently followed him before and at times it has landed my family in the middle of a tough situation that felt like an earthquake, knocking us to our knees.
I’m not alone in this feeling of angry confusion.
Thrown in the Mud
In Scripture, Job endured the sudden loss of everything he had. He didn’t hold back when describing his pain and suffering, candidly saying, “With a strong hand, God grabs my shirt. He grips me by the collar of my coat. He has thrown me into the mud. I’m nothing more than dust and ashes” (Job 30:18-19, NLT).
What a brazen thing to say about the Creator! We might expect God to get angry and strike Job down for an accusation like that. Instead, God let Job rant for a while and then responded with questions:
Job’s angry confusion was countered with reminders of God’s sovereign strength — and an offer of relationship.
God continued to invite Job into conversation as he asked questions for many more chapters! And because he had confidence in God’s character and promises, Job felt safe to freely express his pain, while also reminding himself of truth’s steady foundation:
“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (19:25-27).
Lifted Out of the Mud
Job isn’t the only person in the Old Testament who experienced a sense of confusion in his pain. The Psalms are full of the shepherd king David’s brokenly honest cries, like: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?” (Psalm 22:1).
He also exclaimed: “My heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me. Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking” (55:4-5).
In Psalm 69:1-2, David pleaded, “Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me.”
Even in fear and confusion, David was able to cling to the promises of God and his faithfulness: “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along” (40:1-2).
David would also sing praises to God, in spite of his circumstances. He sang: “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms” (68:19) and “… I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are back by all the honor of your name” (138:2b).
When life shook David’s steadiness, he responded by throwing himself on God’s powerful mercy, because he knew this truth: We cannot fall far enough that God’s promises won’t hold firm beneath us.
Held by a Steady Hand
As our friends in Papua New Guinea got to know me and my family, they began to anticipate the trouble I would have on their trails. Every time we came to a muddy spot, one of them would reach out with a gentle smile and say, “Sister, hold my hand, or you might fall down.”
Their strength became my steadiness as we walked together.
God is no stranger to our shadowed paths. His Son, Jesus, ached and wept here on earth. He was betrayed and rejected in the most painful ways. Both Father and Son know the brokenness and pain that sin causes. But God’s Spirit is also with his children — holding us steady through even the darkest parts of our journey.
The promises in his Word will never give way beneath us. In him we will always find solid ground.
Dig for Treasure
Do you need a steady hand and solid ground? Take a look at these Scripture passages and the truths they offer about God and his promises:
- Psalm 56:8 — God cares deeply about our sorrow.
- Psalm 145:14 — God lifts our heavy burdens.
- Psalm 22:24 — God is gentle in our suffering.
- John 14:27 — Jesus gives us his peace.
- Romans 8:26 — The Holy Spirit prays on our behalf when we can’t find words.
- Philippians 1:6 — God won’t give up on his work in us.