rebelling against low expectations

Life Preserver: A Promise for Those Passing Through Deep Waters


“It’s time.”

I swallowed those dreaded words, trying to accept them. Process them. Shifting in a wooden chair across a small metal table from the veterinarian, I nodded, and stroked Darcy’s soft black ear.

I’d just spent the last twenty minutes explaining how my sweet Mr. Darcy had rapidly declined in recent days. Kidney disease had stolen his appetite and caused his body to reject what little food he ingested. My self-potty-trained dog, who’d never had an accident before, was now leaving puddles on the carpet. Dementia had descended upon his sweet mind in a haze, turning armchairs and end tables into intricate labyrinths he couldn’t traverse. Weakness had overpowered his will to leave bed and greet me or safely walk across our slippery tile floor. My once twenty-two-pound mutt now weighed in at a mere ten point eight pounds—less than half the dog he used to be.

My baby was suffering. Try as I might, I couldn’t pretend otherwise.

There I was making the decision I’d prayed—begged—for years I’d never have to make, “Take him in his sleep, Jesus. But don’t make me put him down. Please. I can’t do that!”

I inhaled a shaky breath and exhaled those two dreaded words back across the table, “It’s time.”

Passing Through

“God does not open paths for us before we come to them, or provide help before help is needed… Yet, when we are at our point of need, God’s hand is outstretched… Living grace is what is needed for life’s work and calling, and then dying grace when it is time to die.”

I read these words out of Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman mere days before sitting in that veterinary office, and somehow, I knew what would take place that week. Especially after I read the scripture for that day’s devotion.

“Fear not… when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…” Isaiah 43:1&2

This decision was something God would have me walk through, not out of cruelty of heart, but rather that He might show the tenderness of His heart toward me. I heard Him gently whisper, “Test Me on this, Tabitha. Hold Me to this promise, and see how faithful I am.”

Friends, we say we serve a God who is with us in troubled waters, but we don’t actually know it for a fact until our feet get wet. Click To Tweet

Friends, we say we serve a God who is with us in troubled waters, but we don’t actually know it for a fact until our feet get wet. Until the waves of grief and loss come barreling toward us with hurricane force. It’s when we are swept up in the white-water rapids of sorrow that we get to know the Lord as our Life Preserver.

I rehearsed that passage in Isaiah over and over on the car ride. Thirty minutes away from facing one of my greatest fears, I dared God to keep His promise. I felt the waters rising, threatening to overtake me, and as we pulled into the lot, I challenged God, “I’m in the waters now. Be with me. Don’t let me drown. Lead me through.”

A Love Loss Can’t Diminish

The vet techs quietly exited the room. I picked up my companion and confidante of nearly sixteen years and cradled him as the drug took effect. With my momma and sisters sitting on either side of me, I pulled up Peace by We the Kingdom.

“Peace holds me when I’m broken. Sweet peace that passes understanding. When the whole wide world is crashing down, I fall to my knees and breathe in Your peace.”

My world crashed down that day.

The runt of a litter born on my front porch one childhood summer. The comfort that laid calmly for hours on the sofa with me after doctors’ appointments. The baby that gave me purpose and someone to care for when chronic pain kept me from the life I wanted. The constant when family tensions rose. The pitter patter that followed me around the house.

My friend. Gone.

In his place grief. Cold, sharp, and tumultuous. The waves broke through in tears, and I dropped to the floor. The pain of loss continued to cut deeper with every breath I took, and he didn’t.

But there on that floor, Another sat beside me. Held me. Wept with me. He caught every tear that fell from my eyes in a bottle bearing my name (Psalm 56:8). Christ’s presence filled that room as tangibly as loss did that day. His perfect peace enveloped my heart even as pain pierced it.

My pain was not diminished, but God’s love was not diminished either. It was strong and real, steadfast and present as it’s always been. As it always will be.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not even death (Romans 8:38). God’s love for His children is a constant we can depend on, especially when we go through the waters.

A Very Present Help

Christ’s promise to be present in deep waters doesn’t mean the waters will grow shallow. It means we won’t drown. Click To Tweet

Christ’s promise to be present in deep waters doesn’t mean the waters will grow shallow. It means we won’t drown. It doesn’t mean the pain won’t be severe, the grief won’t be turbulent, and the loss won’t be enormous. It means even when they are, we won’t be alone. We will be embraced by the God of all Comfort and Prince of all Peace (2 Cor. 1:3, Isaiah 9:6). It means we will make it through, because the God whose very words gave us life, will sustain our lives.

“I remember Who You are. You’re the God who’s never far. So I will not be afraid. God, You always keep me safe in Your arms.” – Peace, We the Kingdom

I don’t know what sort of deep waters you’re facing today. Perhaps it’s a difficult decision, loss, or grief like I’ve faced. Perhaps the waters you’re staring down are fiercer than that. Whatever ocean you’re in, cling to God’s promise to be in it with you. Cling to His Word and let it keep you afloat.

Remember Who He is—Emmanuel, God with us. Remember that not for a single moment does He forsake those bought by His precious blood. Hold Him to His word, Christian. Dare Him to keep it. I can guarantee you, He will.

Though the waters we’re in roar and foam, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1&3). With Christ at your side, you will not drown in these waters, friend, you will pass through.

It’s been almost one week since I said goodbye and walked out the clinic holding nothing but Darcy’s blue blanket. Waves of grief have surged, relented, and surged again. With every coming tide, I hear the gentle whisper of my Jesus say, “Hold on to Me, I’m holding on to you.” And He is, with arms strong enough to hold my heavy heart, and loving enough to put it back together.

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About the author

Tabitha Bell

Tabitha Bell is a writer, Managing Editor of The Rebelution, co-host of Do Hard Things with The Rebelution Podcast, and a "natural" redhead. Her passion is encouraging others to live in faithful obedience and to abide in Christ regardless of their circumstances. She resides in South Texas with her rescue dogs, Jane and Millie, a pair of gentle giants. Hobbies include singing, cross stitching, studying theology, trying new recipes, and tending to her sourdough starter, Fitzy. To hear snippets of her ever-growing Peace Playlist, and receive encouragement, follow Tabitha on Instagram.


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  • Wow… Tabitha, thank you so much for sharing this. I almost cried to see your pain but also how near God was to you and is still, and it’s so comforting to know that He will never leave us to drown. It reminds me of a quote I’ve been loving lately: “Neither life nor death, height nor depth, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus; not because we hold Him so firmly, but because He holds us so fast.” ❤️ That’s our God!!!
    Praying for you!!!
    A longtime fan of theReb,

    • Thank you for reading and for your prayers, Hope! I truly appreciate it. That is a such a beautiful quote! “He holds us so fast” — what a comforting truth! Thanks for sharing!

By Tabitha Bell
rebelling against low expectations

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