He Leads Me Beside Muddied Waters

For the life of me, I cannot get clarity right now. Can’t hear God, or feel Him, or see the way forward… At the same time, a great deal is being stirred, shifted, and exposed within my heart. Timidly trusting that growth and healing is taking place, I wonder if God is involved; if He cares.  Perhaps you can relate?

As a sheep, I’ve always loved the way my Good Shepherd leads me beside still waters. He knows my deep need for a safe, clean, quiet drink.

This little lamb (the very meaning of my name) is learning something new about her Shepherd in this season: sometimes He sees muddy waters, and bids me come close.

Picture the scene with me: a forest thick with beautiful trees and rock formations, birds lilting, breeze brushing the highest leaves. Walking along the crisp mountain stream, I come to a pool at the feet of a waterfall. The waters near the path are so clear, every rock and organism swimming along the bed are visible. Everything is beautiful and clear, but suddenly I decide to bend down and turn over a submerged rock. The impact kicks up dirt and silt, clouds the water. But something has caught my eye, so I brush and dig a bit more to find the glimmer. Drawing it out, rubbing away years of sediment and hiddenness, stirring up more dirty waters, the true nature of the piece begins to show: a gem! Rough-edged and cloudy, but a precious jewel just the same. And there are more where that came from.

These waters, these stones, are my heart and yours. Sometimes if we’re looking, the Holy Spirit helps us catch a glimpse of something beautiful within that’s been hidden under years of rubble. But in order to bring it into the light, the waters have to get muddy. Other rocks must be disturbed. Things can’t stay the way they were.

Sometimes more digging and rearranging is needed, because the treasure is bigger and deeper than we first thought. It’s an arduous process that seems to take longer than it should, and creates more cloudy waters. It’s easy to miss His presence in all the upheaval.

“I’ve been waiting, God, and looking for a way forward, and wondering if there’s still hope… and now it’s only getting worse!” I cry.

“I’m right here, Rachel,” He replies. I can’t even see His hands for all the cloudy mess, but it occurs to me, if He is right here, and right here is a mess, maybe He has something to do with that mess… and maybe that’s a good thing? If nothing was happening, the waters would be still.  A stirring of the waters; a cleansing pool; clumps of mud in Jesus’ hands; go wash in the river. This is starting to sound familiar. Could healing be right here at my feet, in the middle of the mess? The eyes of my heart are desperate to see. And He is willing! He is willing to restore me, wash me, free me from the dark.

And so I accept the muddied waters as a sign that God is doing something. And who knows but that the something is the very thing I have been asking of Him? Could all this be happening because I have chosen to pursue His kingdom first and not find an easier way? (After all, it was I who reached for the first gem.) I decide to partner with Him in the process and learn to call it beautiful, even though it looks nothing like that. (Perhaps this is faith?)  And perhaps saying yes to the hard work of inner healing propels me forward.  When you walk through the waters, you will not be overcome.

Faintly, I begin to decipher another pair of hands in the waters. Strong and agile, firmly prying away at stubborn stones, not afraid of my messy soul, gently and patiently washing away years of grime until the outline of the gem begins to show… these are the hands of my Jesus.

All that’s left to do now is be still and know that He’s got this. To be still and trust that the silt will settle and eventually reveal the healing that’s been taking place all along.

If everything is upended for you too, consider this hope with me: just because we can’t see, doesn’t mean God isn’t at work. In fact, if God is stirring the waters, we are right where He wants us! Old, hurtful mindsets are washing away (extra scrubbing required here for yours truly). Dysfunctional systems are being uprooted and rearranged. Personality traits that keep us stuck inside ourselves are being pried off. Unforgiveness and lies that once weighed heavy are breaking away. And all of this upheaval is meant to give space for the essence of our uniqueness* to rise and shine.

I encourage you to make room for the possibility that God is right here, and you are in process, and you are strong enough to work with Him until the job is complete. You can do this. It won’t be this muddy forever. When you walk through the waters, you won’t be overcome.

And I encourage you to make time for stillness. With all the work to be done, it’s counterintuitive. He makes me lie down in green pastures… Yep, someone may have to make me. But a hurried life will only kick up more dirt, and who needs that? Even if stillness brings no clarity, do not forsake it. Keep practicing. The silt will settle in time.

I leave you with a prayer-poem, and with hope that we are not lost.  – Rachel

*I pray to the God

who hears above the roar

of the larger place

that pristine trickle

of each secluded spring

welling up from

untapped truth


within each of us.


I pray to the God

who shifts

that last solitary stone

to release

our fertile freshness

forever to run unfettered.


Who stepping back

into the cool shade

of the damp bank

paternally watches

as the essence

of our uniqueness



in crystal clarity

and dares to enter

the wider stream.

-Untitled, by Susie Sims Irvin

Photo by Urša Rogelj on Unsplash


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