They had to be helped up to the platform to speak, could not stand for long periods of time, suffered from debilitating illness and injury; from all outward appearances, these women are unsteady on their feet, generally infirmed, and near the end of their lives. However, as I listened to Joni Eareckson Tada, Kay Arthur, and Susan Hunt at a recent conference, I saw real-life examples of a dear promise of God at work. For several months now I’ve been pondering God’s promise in Psalm 121:3: “He will not allow your foot to slip.” What does that look like exactly? I’ve wondered. Unfortunately, we have one example after another of supposed saints who’ve lost their footing. But as I’ve continued to ruminate on this promise and these examples, I’ve drawn a couple of conclusions.
Feet that don’t slip are held by God.
Psalm 121 teems with the help of Yahweh. Seven times in just eight verses, the psalmist speaks of what the LORD is or will do. He protects, guards, keeps, and does not allow feet to slip. Those whose feet are held steadfast by the hands of the Almighty recognize that their dependence on the King of Kings for help and security. They don’t try to hold their own feet, but allow them to be held by their Keeper.
Last summer the house next door to ours got “flipped.” In just a few weeks we watched it go from a run-down, neglected “project house” to a cute, ready-to-move-into home. One of the first projects was a brand-new roof. A team showed up before breakfast and worked efficiently all day long. Because of the steepness of the roof, the roofers used toe boards to keep them steady as they worked. These toe boards effectively kept the workers’ feet from slipping. Because the roofers trusted that they wouldn’t slip off, they were free to work without fear.
Likewise, these examples of faithful women never failed to point their listeners to the Rock. Their lives, ministries, and words all exude the fact that they have sought to depend on the Maker of heaven and earth for their help.
Those whose feet don’t slip, admit their dependence upon God. It is He who will hold us fast, and not we ourselves. He keeps us in the palm of His hand. His love perseveres to the end. If I believe that I hold my own feet steady, I’ve already begun to slip.
Not only do those with feet that don’t slip depend on Yahweh, they are desperate for Him. With Asaph they cry out,
“Who do I have in heaven but you?
And I desire nothing on earth but you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever” (Psa 73:25-26).
We live in a culture that loathes desperation and lauds independence, a can-do attitude, pluck, and moxie. The last thing we want to appear is desperate.
By definition desperate means being “moved despair or utter loss of hope.”1 Being shipwrecked on a desert island with no food or water is a desperate situation. Those held steady by the hand of God recognize that their plight without His hand is no less desperate. They readily acknowledge that life without Him is utter despair and hopelessness.
Desperate dependence on the Keeper of your Soul requires an abject humility that cannot cohabitate with pride. While pride claims, “I can hold my own feet steady,” and, “I’m holding things together just fine on my own,” humility lifts its eyes to the mountains and seeks help from the Ancient of Days. No wonder the sage of Proverbs cautions, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). These women approaching the finish line of their earthly race are marked by humility, putting the needs of others before their own, proclaiming in full voice that they love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They have seen the disastrous effects of pride and know that without the steadying hand of the Father, they would suffer the same plight.
Humility doesn’t come easily. It’s not a pill that you take at night and feel the effects in the morning. Humility is developed slowly over a long period of time. It’s a work that’s really never finished but continually rebuffed and refinished over the course of a life.
Feet that don’t slip are saturated in the Word.
As these three women addressed the audience—two from their own home via video or Zoom—and one in person, they shared another obvious quality: a life spent in the Word of God. Whether speaking scripted or extemporaneously, Scripture flowed readily from the lips of these dear saints.
Study the Word
Kay Arthur, famous for her colored pencils and intense inductive Bible studies, mentioned the criticism she’s often received that the studies she’s authored have too much homework. In response she quipped, “What better way to spend your time?” Though she spoke only briefly and the sharpness of her mind has sadly been somewhat dulled by disease, Kay continues to model a life spent studying the Word.
If I want to defeat the enemy who day in and day out desperately attacks the foundation upon which I stand, I must skillfully wield my weapon to defeat him. Our adversary knows Scripture; and, sadly, he often knows it better than the children of God do. Feet that don’t slip will gladly spend time wrestling with the Word and submitting to the entire counsel of God.
Abide in the Word
Joni Earekcson Tada, a quadriplegic for well over half a century, has every earthly right to despair. Fighting cancer, chronic pain, and decades in a wheelchair would cause many saints to doubt the goodness and kindness of God. Not Joni. She told of a recent time when, in the middle of the night, she fought fear and anger by shouting the promises of God one after the other until her lungs were about to give out. The verses flowed from her like life-blood; she rattled them off like her own phone number.
Her life exemplifies Psalm 119:83:
“Though I have become like a wineskin dried by smoke,
I do not forget your statutes.”
Feet that don’t slip dwell in the Word and allow the Word to dwell in them. This doesn’t happen by osmosis or accident, but by intentionality. Purposefully memorizing and meditating on the Word will yield fruit. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will reap a harvest. On the contrary, failing to abide in the Word will likewise yield fruit. However, the fruit of that harvest will not nourish anyone’s soul; instead, it will bring death.
In this post-truth era of deconstruction and ex-vangelicalism, I want to finish well, like these three heroines of the faith and their many predecessors by leaning hard on God and leaning in to His Word. Will you join me?