Quicksand

Quicksand. The stuff of drama in old Westerns, Tarzan movies, desert movies, and even two chapters in the book Les Misérables. 

Have you ever had a quicksand experience?

Quicksand is loose, wet sand that yields easily to pressure. Although the sand looks solid, a change in pressure causes it to lose strength because of its spongy texture. Anything resting on it will fall into it. 

Have you ever fallen in unexpectedly?

One of the most interesting truths about quicksand is that it can’t suck a person down. When a person falls into quicksand, he/she usually panics because his/her movements are restricted by the wet sand. 

The more the person struggles, the deeper he/she sinks. It’s unlikely that he/she will sink entirely because the human body is denser than the quicksand. But that realization may be far from his/her mind.

Have you ever struggled while you were sinking?

What might actually happen is that the more the person struggles, the more tired he/she becomes. The way to escape is by slow movement of the legs and rotation of the body. 

Exhaustion is a genuine danger.

Has exhaustion ever threatened your existence?

Quicksand reminds me of one way the enemy works in our lives. Sometimes we feel like we’re falling into the stresses and demands of daily life. We may think that a certain person, a certain job, a certain possession, a certain address, a certain diversion are all we need to live a secure life. 

But as those things pass away and the uncertainty of what comes next is not strong enough to hold us, we feel ourselves sinking. We discover that the world and all its temptations are definitely not a solid foundation for our lives.

Of course, the human reaction is to fight and try to pull ourselves out of the trial, the mess, the confusion, the doubt. And what happens? We can’t do it. We struggle and panic and try to fight against what seems to be pulling us down. And we find ourselves going deeper into the struggle. We forget what will save us.

And exhaustion is a genuine danger.

When exhaustion takes over, the struggle for survival becomes even harder. We end up giving all good things about ourselves to the fight. By the end of each day, our energy is depleted. We may even hear ourselves saying, “I’ve got nothing left.”

I’ve been there. And I may find myself there again. That’s one of my human pitfalls. Not paying attention to the landscape and falling into the danger zone. Trusting people and money more than I trusted God. Coming to the end of both. Realizing there was no way out in my own strength.

That’s the place God wants to meet you. Sometimes you have to come to the end of yourself, your perceived strength and independence, so that God can do the work he wants to do in and through you.

Are you at that place today? It’s okay. God is there with you. He is going to put his arms around you, pull you to safety, calm your fears, dry your tears. And be assured. This isn’t a one-and-done salvation. God is always there for you. No one and nothing else can truthfully make that promise.

There was one quicksand time in my life when I turned my back on everything I had known, including my God and my family. I decided to pursue a life as a poet. I know it sounds crazy, but poetry became my idol and took the place of God in my life. 

I surrounded myself with poets and immersed myself in the arts culture. I had a good day job as a legal assistant to pay the bills. I devoted all my other time to writing poetry, reading poetry, traveling to poetry workshops, giving poetry readings, leading poetry events.

Then the ego kicked in. A few of my poems got published, and I won a couple of prizes. I was the editor of a poetry journal. Hey, I’m pretty good at this!

That lasted for about three years. (My strong will, stubbornness, and unwavering optimism had definitely kicked in.) Then I found myself in the quicksand of reality. 

One of my poetry friends passed away. People in our poetry group fell into disagreements and began to disappoint me. Instead of feeling inspired to write, I often felt numb and dead inside. The stress level of my job increased, and the money was never enough. I had moved so far away from God, I thought I could never get back to him.

At first, I panicked and struggled. 

Then one night during a thunderstorm ― in Phoenix, Arizona, where I was living ― God got my attention. He put his arms around me, told me he had a better life for me, and began pulling me out of the quicksand of a life without him.

That rescue involved the ending of a three-year romantic relationship. A move from Phoenix to St. Louis. A new job as a writer for a Christian ministry. New friends. A renewed commitment to my family. Even a new focus for my poetry. A life transplant. Not easy, but definitely God’s plan. 

That was one of the many times in my life when I’ve felt that open hand, those strong arms lifting me up and out. God brought me back to him.

Wherever you are today, in your life and in your relationship with God, reach out for him. Instead of struggling, turn to God and his Word. Let him save you. As he longs to do. Even if it doesn’t look like what you imagined or isn’t what you were expecting. God will never fail you.

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord, who have no confidence in the proud or those who worship idols. O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them” (Psalm 40:1-5).

Lord, you are the only one who can pull me up out of what is pulling me down. 
I’m standing on solid ground!
On the mountaintop with you.