Upstream. Against the current. Even after losing yourself in the waves of disappointment. Just. Keep. Swimming.
This line spoken by Dory in the movie Finding Nemo is such a memorable one. It’s a reminder to keep going no matter what. Dory’s character is most memorable for her “can do” spirit, even in the face of what appears to baffle her. Even when she forgets her surroundings, what she’s learned and who she’s met. She keeps a persevering mindset and presses forward with enthusiasm. Now, I understand if you’re reading this and thinking that you can’t relate to that level of fortitude in the face of what you’ve been making your way through lately. But I want to remind you of something. God is faithful. He knows what you’ve been going through and He cares about every detail!
On those difficult days, there are words of encouragement that can be found throughout scripture to address your situation. For example, Proverbs 24:16a in the New International Version says, “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” This is a beautiful reminder that, no matter what gets you down or how many times you feel defeated, in Christ, you don’t have to be! There will always be an opportunity to get back up and keep going. God guarantees it. Another important reminder we receive in scripture is not to grow weary in doing good because a beneficial outcome awaits on the other side of our perseverance (Galatians 6:9). God’s word is filled with affirmations reminding us that He’s on our side, rooting for us.
Along with these affirmations for our encouragement, God reminds us that He is our backup in every situation, stepping in on our behalf whenever our strength, faith, or hope wavers. Now, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that, within this beautiful dynamic of trusted support and relationship we have with God, there is someone else who seeks to grab our attention, especially during hard times. The enemy is like the villain in a film, trying to thwart the progress and peace experienced by the beloved protagonist. He does all that he can to lure us into dark places: in our minds, in our environments, in our relationships…you get the picture. Thank goodness God has a remedy for that issue as well:
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
– Psalm 91:11-12 NKJV
In Hebrew, the word “keep” here refers to preservation and protection. “In all your ways” refers to our decision-making and the paths they lead to. Just as there is a directionally wrong or right way to go, particularly when trying to get to a specific destination, there are many “ways” in life that can either lead to the intended outcome or lead us astray (Note: In the Bible, Jesus is described as “The Way” and He informs us that no one can get to the Father except through Him). The same two verses written above are referenced in the discourse between Jesus and the devil while in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). In the face of temptation, Jesus provides a blueprint for how to handle it; He defers to the word of God. The word of God is a powerful weapon, particularly against the attacks of the enemy (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17).
Before I continue, It is imperative that we understand two things:
- God does not tempt us, though He does permit us to face temptation (James 1:13). The attribute of temptation belongs to the enemy, Satan (Matthew 4:3).
- God always provides us a way out of/to endure temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Now, back to the discussion of how God works on our behalf. Another portion of scripture that references our being kept by God is Jude 24 (NKJV), which states:
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy
This doxology (a portion or passage of scripture that attributes praise to God) is a reminder to believers that God is able to sustain us. This verse highlights a few things. The word “keep” here, like in the last passage, also denotes preservation, particularly in the face of fault (as understood by the context of the following two words). The word “from” is defined as a preposition denoting separation or removal. The word “stumbling” refers to a mistake. If you’re like me, you may have read that verse and thought that phrase simply meant God would prevent us from falling. However, upon deeper study, I learned that the relationship between the words “keep” and “stumbling” are best understood in the context of God separating us from sin in His eyes (hence the rest of the verse’s reference to us being presented as blameless in His presence). Scripture states that God “has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12 NLT). This verse references our decision-making and God’s ability to preserve us in spite of our moral failures. He separates us from our sins and presents us as pure. Jude 24 even says that He does so with “exceeding joy.” God wants to sustain us, but it is our choice to allow Him to do so (He is able to but does not impose Himself on us).
The invitation for God to intercede in your situation when you are confronted with the lies and schemes of the enemy is best accomplished through deference to Him/His word. Jesus did it. We can do it. And, best of all, allowing God to fight on our behalf frees us to keep pursuing His best for us. Remember. Trust that God’s got you covered and just keep swimming.
‘Til next time.
- Never Be Defeated by Rich Tolbert Jr.
- The Way (New Horizon) by Housefires
- On My Side by Kim Walker-Smith
- Angels by Elle Limebear
Photo by Gabor Szuts on Unsplash