If I say, "My foot slips," Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up. ~ Psalm 94:18
I heard a powerful sermon on this text once. I had never paid attention to it before, but the speaker made it unforgettable. He told a story of when he was climbing up a very steep hill of pebbles. One wrong step and you could slide pretty dangerously, further and faster than you'd like. To top it off, he was afraid of heights.
I can't remember the whole sermon, so I actually might make part of this up. But it is true, nonetheless! It is what I personally have learned, and today, through a slip of my own, I realized there is even more to the promise.
We've heard the the text that says "The righteous man falls seven times, and rises up again." I claim this often as a precious promise when I fall or make mistakes in my spiritual walk. Probably many others do as well.
But this text is different. The "righteous person" here (who would be one that trusts in the righteousness and grace of Jesus Christ) is not shown to be getting up after falling. He is calling out while he is falling. And he doesn't even have the chance to formulate it into a plea for help.
Put yourself in the speaker's story.
Someone is climbing with you. Because of your fear of heights you are much more unbalanced than he is, and your foot slips. Soon you will find yourself in an unhappy (understatement) heap at the bottom of the steep hill, unless someone catches you and holds you up. In that split second you cry out, "Dear friend who climbs with me, Thank you so much for being with me. You see that I am slipping and about to fall. Please, hold me up before I fall to my death. Thank you so much."
Of course you wouldn't say that! Or a least I wouldn't (I hope you wouldn't either). No, the words that would come out of your mouth would sound something like this:
"I'M SLIPPING! I'M FA—"
A strong arm grabs you and holds you up.
The friend wouldn't wait for you to technically ask for help. A friend is a friend, and they would hold you if it was in their power to keep you from falling.
God has the power to keep us from falling. "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy..." (Jude 24).
When I left the sermon that day, I had learned a great lesson that would soon make itself real in everyday life. I would always remember that when we are slipping and falling, yes, even as our foot slips (and most likely our own choice made it slip); if we cry out to God -- or just cry out! -- He is near, and in His mercy He will hold us up. What a deep, simple, beautiful promise!
From then on I took "hold you up" as meaning "you will regain your footing and not fall." Yet it doesn't say that! It says that God's mercy will hold you up. It means that, even if BOTH feet slip, God will still hold us up if we cry out as we fall. He will catch us and carry us, while our unsteady feet dangle over the pit, already wet from the edges of the swamp of temptation. He is near, ready in an instant to show us mercy in our failings, and carry us when we cry out for help.
This doesn't mean that God will save us from every mistake. He can't save us if we dive headlong down the hill at breakneck speed. But He can hold us when we fall. And sometimes temptation is too slick for a lengthy request for help.
So next time you find yourself crying out,
"I'M SLIPPING! I'M FA—"
His mercy will hold you up.