When My Foot Slips (Nina Zwart)

October 29, 2023
When My Foot Slips (Nina Zwart)

Psalm 94 vs 18 and 19 (NIV)

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

As I wondered about what to talk about today, I kept thinking about Psalm 94 vs 18. I thought about stories and memories, we all have stories, the stories we remember that grow our faith, the lead our path and that remind us of the wonder of God’s love.  Although stories in the Bible are the richest examples, I have a couple of other stories to share today.

Psalm 94 is a Psalm about God’s righteousness.  It begins by saying vengeance belongs to God.   It reviews that many injustices of the time, how the enemy of the people and of God are wicked and evil, and should be brought to justice.  And it expresses frustration about the ongoing actions of those it perceives as not following God’s commandments, and frustration about the perceived inaction of God.

It also has moments to acknowledge and celebrate the goodness of God, the protection of God, the strength of God.

This is a good reminder, that vengeance is not for us to determine or carry out.  It is so easy, so normal, so human - to become saddened and frustrated about world events, at obvious injustices - and to want to ‘make them right’.  We think we could have the solution.  Just do it.

A friend of mine often repeats this saying ‘our work on this earth is to love others, it is God’s job to judge’.    

However, rather than focus on the righteousness, judgement and vengeance of God, today, I’d like to think about Vs. 18 & 19.  When I said ‘my foot is slipping’, your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy.  There is some emphasis here on ‘When I said’  as well as “my foot is slipping”, which to me says that we are an active participant in receiving God’s unfailing love.  

This verse can paint a vivid picture.  We all have been on the move, climbing, hiking, skiing, walking on ice etc and felt that moment of panic – our foot is slipping.  We’ve watched toddlers learning to walk, lurching, slipping and falling.  We’ve been driving when our car started skidding out of control.  Instinctively, we call out during that instant, and that call often means ‘help’.

A few years ago, my nephew was rock climbing, the outdoor type of climbing on a sheer cliff (strikes terror in my heart when I envision this) - where he would drive a peg into a crack in the rock and that would then support him as he made his way up.  One of his pegs let loose during this particular climb, and he fell many, many feet into a small lake below the cliff.  He hit his head and was unconscious in the water.  His younger brother saw him fall and called out for help.  His father – my brother - was at the top of the cliff, and scrambled down, jumped in the lake and hauled him out of the water and was able to revive him.  A few days in hospital and a month or 2 on concussion recovery protocol, and today he is a university student, with only memories as a reminder of this accident.  And he still rock climbs.  

It makes sense to take this verse literally like this – as a reassurance for us that God will keep us safe – when we call to God during a slip, or when we are at risk of falling or are hurt – and God will be there, with love, supporting us, providing safety.  There are other examples in the Bible of God’s assurance of protection if we slip, fall, strike our foot on a stone.  Proverbs 3 mentions ‘go on your way safely and you will not stumble’.  In the story of Jesus temptation in the wilderness, Satan quoted the verse from Psalm 91 – ‘the angels will lift you safely in their hands so that your foot will not strike against a stone’.  Trust in God to keep us physically safe is a comfort.  The angels were with my nephew that day rock climbing, working with his family to save him.

I also have a more figurative rather than literal interpretation in my memory that I attach to this verse.  ‘When I said ‘my foot is slipping’, your unfailing love Lord supported me’.  To me, ‘my foot is slipping’ easily also means ‘my faith is slipping’.

It takes me back to memories of my Dad, many years ago when I was probably less than 10 years old.  My Dad was a thinker, sometimes a dreamer, and often seemed lost in thought.  Most times those thoughts likely had something to do with ‘how can I make ends meet this month – feeding 9 children – can I afford another cow to milk for income.  Will there be enough rain and sunshine to get the crops in for the winter.  Will the frost hold off.

And often his thoughts and actions were deeply rooted in his faith.  He sang hymns at the top of his voice on the tractor which we, as kids, often rode along.  Great is thy Faithfulness is one.  He had long, biblically based, theological discussions with his sister on a Sunday afternoon, exploring faith and interpreting the Bible.  He was very thoughtful in his speech, he did not respond quickly or impulsively to a question.  Life as an immigrant, starting in a new country with no real money, and supporting a large family took a lot of his time and thought.  Without a need for him to explain, I knew he was a deeply spiritual man who walked with God, striving to live out his life in a way that honoured his relationship with God.  

As background, Dad was 17 or so, and still in the Netherlands during it’s occupation in the 2nd world war, active in the ‘underground’ there.  Soldiers were assigned to regions of the country to monitor the farmers, to round up teen age boys to work in the munitions factories, and to ensure harvest was sent to support the German army.  Dad has a recollection of one particular soldier in his area – nicknamed ‘The Dog’.  Much suffering was attributed to this person – I had heard a few of the stories from my Aunt of people, including my grandfather, being threatened at gunpoint to divulge or confess something, and that a neighbour farmer was shot in front of his family.  War is hard.

My memory is of driving to church on a Sunday.  On our way to church, we drove a road that was a lot like # 23 – past Homestead Golf course – winding, tree lined – I always enjoyed that stretch of road.  My memory on a particular drive to church is of Dad talking about a thought he had, causing him distress and conflicting thoughts.  

Dad was thinking aloud about his possible reaction if he encountered this particular soldier ‘The Dog’ on that road, on his way to church.  He wondered if it would be hard to stop his impulse to cross the road in the car and run him over and that this thought caused him angst.  He acknowledged that his strong emotions were so contrary to how he believed he should live.  He said he had prayed about this.  

This inner tension, caused by his very human impulse to do something to correct an evil, –countered by knowing that this impulse was contrary to his faith, was a real-life conflict for him.   He worked through that disconnect by recognizing his feelings, and to pray for guidance.

The impulse to act, to fix, to judge and convict is very human.  There are many examples in the Bible of the judgement of God, of what has happened when people forget about living in relationship with God.  Our children’s story of the Flood is one of those.  And God gives us guidance to ‘turn the other cheek’, to look to God for the ultimate judgement.

God also gave us tools to help with these human emotions.  There are many examples in Bible stories of unconditional love, and of salvation.  Of teaching patience, to love our neighbours and to trust in God.  

The way I think of it is that God seeks to be the pause between our real-life emotional thoughts - and our impulsive actions.  When we call out to God “I am slipping”, like my Dad did when he wrestled with his thoughts, God, through Jesus, is ever available to us, through prayer and example in the Bible, to counter our human impulses. Vs. 19 reminds us that ‘when anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy’.  

Max Lucado the well-known children and adult author said ‘the white space between the verses is fertile ground’.   In my mind, the white space is when we call out to God we are slipping.  This is the pause, that allows for God to enter and be present.  That pause, that white space is where the God, through the Holy Spirit, moves.  When we give pause between thought and action, when we work to reconcile our impulses with God’s teachings, and take time to ponder and consider as my Dad did, God is there – through the Holy spirit.  When our foot slips, literally or figuratively, physically, emotionally or spiritually, God’s unfailing love is there to support us.  When we call out to God, no matter what, God is there, with love.  When we are anxious, God is there to console and bring joy. 

This gives me comfort.  It is ok.  We can be human with all the real-life emotions that brings, with the impatience, uncertainties, doubts and questions.  We can pause, call out to God and acknowledge ‘my foot is slipping, my faith is slipping’, and God will respond.   I can call to God, with all my humanness and doubts, when I am in trouble and know and trust that God will support.  God will be there when my faith slips, and that God will bring me comfort and consolation when anxieties come.  

So I will close with God’s word (the Message):

The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,”
    your love, God, took hold and held me fast.
When I was upset and beside myself,
    you calmed me down and cheered me up.


Add your comment
Please enter your name.
Please enter a longer comment.