From Carried to Carry On

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Eat. Sleep. Swim.

Twelve years of my life were spent in a pool. It was grueling and difficult, but in the water I found the strength to endure. For only through the application of resistance was I able to grow stronger, move faster and achieve greater goals.

But, training can be a tiring and painful process.  One such training method was treading water. Now, treading water on its own isn’t very difficult, in fact it is easy with all four limbs working together. But what happens when resistance is applied?

You’ll find that when you raise your hands out of the water that suddenly your legs start kicking a little stronger, faster. Now, raise your elbows out of the water. You’re feet are picking up speed, aren’t they?

Arms all the way out? Why not? Do you feel the strain in your legs? And before you ask, no, you can’t duck under the surface. You must keep your head up, chin out—show your neck if you can. And now, just when you think that might be enough, we’re going to up the ante. Hold a brick in your hands, struggling to keep those arms out of the water, struggling to keep that chin up, and the water from going in your mouth.

Then, finally, for one last bit of what feels like torture…strap on a pair of athletic shoes and try to kick with water-logged shoes. Suddenly, your greatest weapon is crippled.

For what seems like hours, and is really only minutes, my teammates and I would endure this training. We would struggle, gasp for air, all the while feeling the burning in our legs, and hating how difficult it was to kick with shoes on. Everything was weakened to the point of exhaustion and near inability.

And then, it would end.

The brick was first to go—immediate relief in the arms. Then came the shoes. I would kick them off, rejoicing in the freedom of movement, in the restoration of power to my feet. And then, I would roll onto my back and just float, each breath becoming longer, and deeper. My lungs, legs and arms burning, but recovering.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever carried a burden that seems like too much and suddenly it’s released?

As Christians, we enter into a space of training and refining when the struggles of this world compound.

Sometimes we are walking along fine. Our feet are fitted with the Gospel, we’re holding the Sword of the Spirit, we have the Shield of Faith, and we’re wearing the Helmet of Salvation, while girded with the Belt of Truth. But then something knocks us off kilter, and when we begin to carry around a heavy burden our alignment is thrown off.

We begin to feel the weight—and the struggle commences. Overtime, more and more gets added and, whether by our own doing, or through the trials of this world, we gasp for breath.

Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.

–Psalm 69:1-4

Does that sound like you today? Are you carrying a burden that seems too heavy? Is your heart shaking with the weight, are your feet struggling to manage the same paths you used to walk? Are those things that used to seem so simple, suddenly so difficult?

There is a process in the forming of the clay where the breaking down and the shaping become necessary for the finished work.

Though the process is painful, you are not alone. We each have our seasons—moments where it all seems like too much, too crippling. But, can I tell you there is a difference in this kind of battlefield?  For swimming, it was just me, the pool, and a clock to race against. No one could help—not really. But that is where the difference lies.

You see, a friend of mine illustrated this so perfectly. She was in a season of deep grief, and loss. But upon reaching the other side, she told me, emotion clogging her voice, “You know what? When this started, a friend prayed that the Lord would carry me through this, and He has. He has carried me, but now that He has held me through the worst of it, things have changed. I can feel the Lord putting me down on my feet, not to walk alone, but to walk beside me and to help me carry this.”

Is that not powerful and beautiful all at the same time? My dear friend understands these trials, much like the Israelites did. For Moses said,

“The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.” –Deuteronomy 1:30-31

That is power my friends. That is strength under trial—that is air when life seems to be too much, when the brick grows too heavy and the waters creep higher.

That, is the Lord hopping into the water with you to raise you up and help you hold that brick. So lean back, and let Him hold you and learn how to float again. Let Him show you how He can carry you and share this burden. And then when you’re ready, He will put you down so you can walk beside Him, learning how to take those steps once more. This time you will be a little stronger, but more importantly, a whole lot closer to the One who is always with you.

And that, even in the midst of trails, is good news.