Waiting in the Water: on standing still when it’s getting uncomfortable

Feet of the person standing in the water

“Give this command to the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop there.’

 It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge,  the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam…”

Joshua 3:8, 15-16


We had another rough budget month. We’re still trying to pay off the gas, vehicle repairs and medical expenses from our trip in June and here we are, moving in a week, and about to take on the cost of Cody flying again.

I have sat before the Lord, more than willing for Him to re-direct:

Listen, it’s okay if I misunderstood the plan here. I’m a little daunted by it anyway. I could go back to work instead? We could support other missionaries? The transmission on the truck went out and we can’t really get to Arizona without a truck, so if this is you communicating to hold up right here, I’m good with that!

And then He provided for the transmission repair…for free.

All day long, I have been holding my plans before Him: I surrender, Lord. It’s okay, we don’t have to do this!

All day long, I been flooded with the imagery of the Israelite priests walking into the water.

It was harvest season, so the river was even deeper and swifter than usual. I imagined myself as a one of these priests, shouldering the hefty weight of the sacred Ark of the Covenant, leading hundreds of thousands of people, and feeling absolutely ridiculous as I walk…into…a river.

jordan river flood season

I’m wet. The water is seeping up my tunic. I’m praying my sandals don’t catch on the current and the slippery river rock, causing me to lose my footing. I’m putting on a confident face, but, really? Take a few steps INTO the river and then wait? If God was going to bring the water to a halt, why couldn’t we wait on shore? 

Two principles I’m learning from this story:

1. They had to touch the water.

God provided a footpath across the dry bed of the biggest river in the country for at least 600,000 men, plus woman and children. It’s like if something barricaded the Mississippi so completely that people started driving their cars across it instead of using the bridges. His answer to their need was nothing short of miraculous, but He did not act until the priests came into contact with the water. Not the step before, not the step after.

touch the water

2. They had to wait.

The story says that as soon as their feet touched the water, God answered. But He didn’t answer right there before their eyes. He answered far away, in a town called Adam.

The river was immediately stopped, but it was not immediately empty.  The effect of that first step of faith was out of sight. But God had done something big, it just took a while to trickle down so that those waiting for His answer could see it.

And the priests stood in the cold, fast water, supporting the weight of a solid wood, gold-plated chest for every long minute of the wait.

feet underwater

And so this is my take-away: when God has led and you have followed, there may be some wet, cold minutes where you seriously question if you heard Him right.

Keep listening for His leading, keep holding your ideas and plans out in surrender, but don’t turn back.

Even if it looks ridiculous to the onlookers, even if you’ve taken a risk and now you’re getting wet, even if the load is heavy and your footing feels unsure, you may be only one more uncomfortable minute away from seeing God part the waters, and if you turn back now, you’ll miss it.


Lord –

I am trusting you, as my toes touch the river’s edge, as I stride forward into the cold, that you are doing something big upstream.

I do not see how this will come together. I do not see how we will have enough. I’d rather wait on shore, especially when I don’t know how long the wait will be.

I am worried. I am waiting in the water. I’m confused and shifty and restless, asking, Lord, just show me what you want me to DO!

Your words from another time echo: “…Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you…” (Exodus 14:13)

“…take a few steps into the river and stop there.” (Joshua 3:8)

ps 27 14

You did not ask the priests to help you by bailing out the water so the river would empty faster. You did not want their help; You wanted their confidence. And so You asked them to walk into the river and then stand still.

“…They waited there until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.”  (Joshua 3:17)

In story after story, people who have put their trust in you watched as you did mind-blowing things. Like so many others, the wet priests held their ground and waited for you. And so will I.

Like so many others, these priests saw you were worthy of their confidence. 

And so will I.


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