“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” (NIV)
What do you think you spend more time on: doing what you need to do, or putting it off? Give your honest answer: are you living up to your purpose, or are you putting it off for another day?
Summer is the season when it’s easiest to give in to procrastination. The weather is nice and warm, there are sports to play, concerts to go see, evening walks, festivals—every kind of distraction you could possibly wish for is available if you’re looking to procrastinate.
As I move into my summer series about conquering those things that are holding us back from God and success, I want to start with the topic of avoidance and procrastination because it can be the most devastating; it’s the one that can hold everything up. After all, how are we going to conquer anything if we are so busy putting everything off? How are we even going to see what’s wrong if we’re so busy looking for a good distraction?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not above setting some work aside before I’ve completed it from time to time. I’m not above changing plans when there’s a big game to watch or a friend in town. I know how easy it is to find a reason to put off the gym and avoid that serious talk with someone. But I know, as we all need to know, that distraction is the wrong choice, that I’ve got a purpose to get back to, and every moment I spend away from it, I’m taking away from the reason I’m here. If we make a habit of this in life, if we let ourselves be trapped by a preference to go swimming in the shallows, we’ll never get to the good stuff—to the deep stuff—that makes life so rich and worth living. Don’t get me wrong…sometimes it is necessary to take a break and unwind from a hectic schedule and demands that other people may place on your time. Sometimes that requires a change in your plans. Just be sure not to become comfortable with continuously putting things off and not achieving what you originally set out to do.
“When you pass through the waters, I’ll be with you.”
That’s God reassuring Isaiah. Isaiah had some pretty deep waters to swim through. He was tasked with guiding the faithful in a very turbulent time. It’s not hard to imagine why he might want to keep to the shallows to avoid his divine purpose. He could have begged God for a little more time to get in some traveling, or begged for a little more time to get on with his hobbies, or begged for just a little more time to rest and lay about before he was called.
He didn’t. We know how he responded. He said, “Here am I” (Isaiah 6:8), because he knew God was going to be there to help him through the tough stuff. And he knew nothing was as important as diving in deep and getting to his purpose, to God’s purpose for him.
That’s a lesson we could all use. Sometimes we need to put down the iPad and turn off the game so we can dive into what God needs us to do. That may be spending more time with family or participating in the community. It may be getting to church every Sunday or focusing on putting that business plan together. Or, it may be becoming part of a cause or finding a way to mend a broken relationship. Regardless, if we take the time and effort to swim out into the deep water where we are less comfortable, we will find that God is there to show us where to dive and bring us back to the surface.
God’s presence is everywhere, but to get Him helping you, you have to earn it. You have to prove you are ready for Him, that you are working for Him, by showing that His priorities are your top priorities, and simple distractions aren’t going to keep you from Him.
God tells Isaiah in the first verse of chapter 43, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.”
Do not fear. There’s nothing to fear here. The deep waters ahead look scary and the shallows seem safer, but God’s not looking to protect you in the kiddie pool. God is waiting for you there, in the deep water, in the tough work He’s assigned to you.
He’s giving us a chance. He’s reaching out His hand and offering to guide us through the deep waters of our challenges in life, and we’ve got to stop putting off reaching out to Him. There will always be distractions that make it easy to leave the challenges in life for another day. But if we want to dive into our purpose in life, we’ve got to put all that on the shelf. That doesn’t mean never watch the game or take those evening walks. But it does mean that those are treats to relieve us at times when we truly need relief. They are simply the shallows that we know we can swim back to for a time of rest after diving into the deep.