when you pass through the waters

I wore my water-wading pants today. Not for ocean kind of water. But the ones I wore that hot day in Manilla, when we walked through the deep waters of poverty.

Every time I pull those pants on, I think of that day. I think of how I thought riding through the one foot high water in a pedicab was dangerous, until we got on the styrofoam boat. And I thought riding on a styrofoam boat was bad, until we put on the rubber boots. And it was there, walking through the water with my gray Old Navy pants on when it hit me how awful this broken world can really be.

And so today, I wore those pants again. Our family is walking through a difficult time with one who is close to us quickly moving towards heaven. And all we can do is watch as cancer takes what cancer wants.

The  song has been in my head all day, the one from the verse about passing through the waters. I’ve thought of the heartbreak in Manila and the heartbreak at home and how there often are no easy answers or ribbon-tied endings; just deep waters, feeble faith, and a God who holds all things together even as they fall apart.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2 ESV


  1. says

    {{{{hugs}}}} As one who has recently passed through some pretty deep waters of life also, thank you for reminding me that no matter what life brings, He is with us. In all my looking to scripture for strength, I had forgotten about this verse. :) May He bring you peace today, Emily.

  2. says

    prayers for you this morning my friend.
    i know you know those promises to be true. praying for your tender spirit that you sense your presence in the shadow of His wings

  3. says

    Cancer is a terrible, greedy disease. I’m so sorry. How much worse, though, for there to be deep waters and for you to have no wading pants, no boots? God has equipped you well for whatever you must trudge through. But I know the trudging is exhausting, and I’m sorry. Is there some of your load that I could carry for you?

    Love you!

  4. says

    But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the One who formed you says “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name, you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” -Isaiah 43:1-2. This is the theme verse for the summer camp I’m working at this summer. So powerful.

  5. says

    I knew a similar song back from my youth camp days. Same words, but maybe different tune? It has stayed with me for all these years. The chorus continues, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine. For I am the Lord your God. The Holy one of Israel. Your Savior.”

    Sending love and prayers your way today.

  6. Laura says

    I’m so sorry. I’m praying. Thank you for taking precious time to share encouragement with us. May you be blessed abundantly today as you have blessed us!

  7. says

    As someone whose lost both her father and her mother, I have passed through those waters and even though it feels like you are drowning too, be assured that God reaches out for you and pulls your head above the tide.

    In his name . .

  8. says

    Hugs and prayers your way today, Emily. God is amazing in your use of words. I know he will use that gift to touch someone in this time. Praying He’ll send someone to touch you. <3

  9. says

    For whatever reason, I have not commented here often. And I’m sorry – because I have followed your beautiful writing for many months now and I should let you know that with some sort of regularity. Thank you for these lovely words today, Emily. And I know these verses well – they have been a lifeboat for me at several difficult points along my own journey. Today, I pray them with you for this one you love who is dying. Cancer is just exactly that – cancer, eating away life and beauty, vibrancy and personhood. BUT God has promised us presence, God knows our names, God can and does redeem every situation of pain and struggle.

    When we’re in the middle of it, verses like these can become our very breath, providing language when we cannot find it, providing hope and peace when they are in seriously short supply. Very early on in my journey toward pastoring, God gave me an image that was so helpful in dealing with those who are dying from a wasting disease like cancer – as I stood at a friend’s bedside, I saw that what was happening in and to her body was very much like labor, she was in the midst of a birthing process, moving from one life to the next. And suddenly, for me at least, there was a strange beauty in that realization. Within about 48 hours, her laboring was finished and I knew she was radiant with joy at the gift of life she held in her arms. May the one you love find that sweet release very soon – and may all of you have the emotional and spiritual space to both grieve and celebrate.

  10. says

    I am so sorry. I know how hard it is to watch someone fight that battle. I lost my grandmother to leukemia. I am so thankful for God’s love that held me together (and still does). Much love to you!

  11. says

    praying for you today Emily. I’m so sorry that you are going through that awful battle with someone who is dear to you.

    Gosh I was just thinking about this photo of you yesterday… strange…

  12. says

    Hi Emily,
    I am going through a difficult time and reading this post and this piece of scripture meant so much to me today. Thank you! May God bless your family and be with your friend with every breathe of his/her fight, and those who wake up to murky waters and a broken world.

  13. says

    Thank you, Emily. The verse you had at the end of your post was especially meaningful to me, as we are going through a difficult time together with a family member who is suffering. May God be near to you and your friends, as He promises to do. Thanks for sharing.

  14. says

    Sometimes it is all we can do just to hang onto His hand and pray the we don’t get pulled under. Praying for you and your family during this difficult time Emily.

  15. says

    We’re walking through some difficult times ourselves, as are some of those around us. I prayed for comfort this morning, and then I read this. Thank you. And I am praying for you and your family.

  16. shelley in cali says

    Praying for grace and the peace that passes all understanding, for you and your family. My sister (who lives in another country, across the big pond) and I have lost our mom, to cancer’s awfulness and our dad, both within the last couple of years. That grace and peace that I’m praying for is, is what carried us.

    Be blessed.

  17. says

    Thank you for posting this verse. Fragments of it were in my mind last night and I wanted to share it with a struggling friend but did not. Now that I have read it again I will definitely share it. I am so sorry for you and yours. May the God of all comfort bring you peace.

  18. says

    and this post is what I’ve missed about coming by this beautiful place of yours…..
    praying for you as you struggle through the valley of death with a loved one-

  19. says

    Oh Emily… you make me cry on the best of days, but today you broke me. I’m in the same position, of trying to forgive the cancer that is quickly taking over my grandmother’s body. The world is a hurting place, and it is scary… but hold on. I am praying for your family as well as you go through this tough time – and know that I’m fighting this battle along with you.

  20. says

    I didn’t read any comments before mine, so this may have been said already.
    “just deep waters, feeble faith, and a God who holds all things together even as they fall apart.” simple words describing a full heart , but I want to always remember that one word in the scripture “through”. We are not stuck in quick sand but going through one step at a time, crying “Lord, help my unbelief,” and picking up the pieces and replacing them in His hands, when everything is save and everything fits.

  21. says

    May the peace that passes all understanding fill your heart and mind.

    I hope that knowing others are with you in your pain helps a little.

  22. says

    praying for your family now. this world – we’re not promised an easy time here, but we are promised a peace that passes understanding. praise him.

  23. says

    Oh dear one, I am so sorry. Last week I spent 3 days with family, amidst tears and prayers and why’s, over the sudden death of my cousin. He was 26. We are simply clinging to Jesus.

    I love your words, “a God who holds all things together even as they fall apart….” That is the most beautiful way of putting it. My prayers are with you and yours.

  24. says

    Oh, Emily! My heart breaks for you, and you will be in my prayers.

    But I need to disagree with you about the ribbon-tied endings! God has been teaching me lately that EVERY ending is ribbon-tied because He is the one weaving the ribbon and tieing them. I thought to myself the other day, “Why do I always assume that things will work out like the movies, where every character has a purpose and the plot is perfectly planned?” I felt like God immediately responded, “Wait a minute! Why would you assume life isn’t like that? Am I not the great story teller? Do I not have a plan and purpose for every single living creature? I’m God–why wouldn’t my plans work out for a perfect ending?”

    Maybe we can’t see the big picture, but God calls us to trust that He does have control. Faith is just hope with confidence, nothing more.

  25. says

    Emily I’m so sorry to hear you are walking through this difficult season. My sister Traci and I lost our Mom to cancer and the journey has been difficult but Jesus has been faithful. He always is.
    Praying for you tonight!

  26. Lisa says

    Love and prayers are all I have to offer, but I offer them without limit. Praying Romans 8:28 for you and your family with a full heart, Emily.

  27. says

    Oh Emily, my heart aches with you.
    A dear friend, who was one of my closest friends on the mission field in Davao, is walking through cancer now. They kept saying in Davao that it was NOT cancer… they finally came stateside and she’s been diagnosed with STAGE 4 Lymphoma. She is my age and has 3 kids all under the age of 13, the youngest being 6. She is so very frail to begin with and the chemo is… not helping. As I hold her hand and pray I worry that I will shatter the hand that has held so many Filipino children. She says she doesn’t know how she will get through 3 more rounds of it (had 5 so far) She asks me to pray for their future and what it holds and for their church who are still awaiting their return. Her name is Sheila if the Lord leads anyone reading this to pray…
    Praying for you and your dear one, and family, as you watch the cancer, like a huge rotten bully, take what it wants.
    And all the while it does, God holds us close while our hearts ache, he collects each of our tears…

  28. says

    As I walk the road of cancer myself with my sweet mom, I will think of these words. And, the post about Heaven touching earth? Yeah, that was so amazing. Thank you for these words of hope…

  29. says

    Hi Emily. I’m spending four weeks in a place with no internet . . . except for tonight. I was checking in on my favorite blogs, stopping here to find that you are going through a really tough time. I want you to know I’ll be thinking about you and your family.


  30. says

    the emotions that you breathe into words teach so much. i feel like i could sit here forever, soaking in your words and thoughts and beautiful photos…
    definitely a place for the soul to breathe, and for the restless like me to settle.

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