Whatever You Do, Don’t Let Go

Whatever you do, don’t let go,” my cousin, Judy, turned and called back to me. “Grab two fists full of mane, grip hard, and hold on.”

            “But I can’t swim,” I shrieked, wide eyes staring at her back.

            “Don’t worry, I can. If anything happens, I’ll dive in and save you,” she said. Splashing drowned out her voice when, as she nudged her horse, the two plunged into the pond to escape the summer heat. The pair swam to the deep end with little more than heads above water.

            Fearless teenagers – as least that described Judy. Me? Umm, not so much.

I hesitated in doubt as fear washed over me, even though I trusted Judy and knew she swam well. In that moment, I faced a choice – dive all in, or turn away. Should I accept her invitation while uncertain of the water, or be left behind and miss the moment?

Sometimes being faithful to the Lord can feel this way. We’re riding along comfortably in our Christian walk, and suddenly we’re facing a situation when fear and doubt wash over us.

Remember Peter? I love Peter. He climbed out of the boat and walked toward Jesus in the middle of raging winds and waves. Seeing someone walking on the water in the middle of the sea, the disciples cried out in fear assuming Jesus was a ghost. What did Jesus say? He said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27, NIV).

I love that, don’t you? Don’t be afraid.

Peter then calls to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you…tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matt 14:28) When Jesus told Peter to come, Peter just bailed right out of the boat.  

Considering his impulsive nature, I imagine Peter climbing overboard without thought or hesitation. Though his faith weakened in his doubt, he chose to leave the boat and seek Jesus. Peter didn’t miss the moment, he seized it. When his fear of the wind and waves threatened to drown him, he doubted and began to sink. Then what did he do? He called out for Jesus. Jesus reached out and grabbed Peter to keep him from drowning. (Matthew 14:23-33).

Is there any doubt Peter held firm to the saving grasp of Jesus? Wouldn’t you?

Do you?

Do you believe what you know about the Lord? Do you trust Him? Do you truly believe He will dive in and lift you out of the murky water when you slip, fall or even sink?

Will you tighten your grip and hold on or will you turn and walk away? When God extends an invitation, will you dive all in, or will you miss the moment? Will you allow logic, circumstances, or uncertainty hold you back? Or will you dive in head first, hold tight, and swim with all our might?

Will you hold on no matter what?

Don’t say it.

Don’t say, “Yeah, but…” I already hear you.

            “Yeah, but you don’t know my circumstances.”

True. But I know God. I know He will never leave you nor forsake you. Nothing surprises God because He already knows. Remember the story of Job? God knew all Job would endure in advance. In fact, God allowed it and even limited Satan’s attacks on this “perfect and upright man.” (Job 1:1-12, NIV)

That day on my favorite horse, I decided to follow my cousin’s lead. Taking a deep breath, I put on a brave face, grabbed two fists full of mane, and gigged my horse in the sides. I gripped my calves tight around the girth as he swam the deep murky waters. Sweat from the saddle we removed only minutes before made gripping around the middle a challenge. I even slipped significantly as my horse lunged up the embankment.

But I made it.

More than that, the experience left me refreshed, revived, and renewed. I prepared for a repeat. No fear. I fully expected to dive back into that pond without a second thought before my uncle stopped us from repeating the pleasure.

Don’t be afraid to dive all in when God calls or extends the invitation to join Him.  The experience may leave you refreshed, revived and renewed in your relationship with our Lord.

Please hear my heart. When waters are deep, waves are high, and the raging storms of life threaten to overtake you, find comfort knowing God is aware of your trials long before you face them. Call out to him. Trust him. Remain in Him. Allow Him to carry you safely to the other side. Weather the storm. Tread the water. Allow yourself to be carried into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Whatever you do…

Don’t. Let. Go.

Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


Love No Matter What

Have you ever winced upon learning that a long-time friend has left your church? Even harder, did your friend appear to doubt much of what he or she used to believe about God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, the Church, and the Christian faith?

If so, how did you respond?

That’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it?

Over the years, after making almost every mistake in the book, I’ve discovered and enjoyed using 10 counter-intuitive yet powerful steps…with amazing, God-blessed results. So has each member of my immediate family. So have many in my church. I pray that’s your experience, too!

First, love your friend unconditionally.

Second, invite your friend to tell his or her story. When they do, just listen. Don’t ask questions. Don’t interrupt at all, except to quickly affirm that you’re actively listening.

Third, be unshockable. Truth be told, we’ve all broken the Ten Commandments, at least in our heart. Confession is good for the soul, so let your friend just talk. Don’t react to anything he or she says, no matter how ugly or angry. They’re not angry at you, even if it sounds that way. 

Fourth, after your friend has finished talking, remain quiet. Keep listening. While on business in Orlando I met a man named Leonard who poured out his heart to me. I didn’t say a word. I just kept listening intently. When he was done, I kept looking into Leonard’s angry, deeply hurt eyes and didn’t say anything. After a minute, with deepest sadness he said, “All I needed was hope and mercy.” What a profoundly haunting lament. Yet if I had started talking, I never would have heard what he needed.

Fifth, once your friend tells you what he or she needs, still don’t say anything. After Leonard told me, “All I needed was hope and mercy,” I remained quiet for another minute. I let my eyes do all the talking. His eyes and facial expressions began to soften and change. Only God’s love can do that. Then Leonard told me, “And by listening to my story, you’ve given me both.”

Sixth, whatever you do, don’t promise to meet your friend’s needs. Often they want to know the answer to their burning question, “Why?” You don’t know. Don’t even try to guess. Speculation will only ruin your credibility. 

Seventh, if you and your friend have a mutual friend who has a strong faith in Jesus Christ, explore the possibility of inviting that mutual friend to join you at some point in the future. If your friend can share his or her story with a second person, it’s often helpful. That mutual friend may be a pastor, a professor, a psychologist, or another respected Christian leader. Or that mutual friend may be an “ordinary” but wise individual you both know you can trust. 

Are you asking for their story?

Eighth, ask your friend if you can pray for him or her. If they’re in agreement, pray right then. Then remind them from time to time that you’re still praying for them. Prayer invites Jesus back into the picture. 

Ninth, at the right time invite your friend to read the Bible with you. Read one of the four Gospels together. As you read, pray that your friend will fall in love with Jesus again. 

Finally, stay in touch with your friend no matter what. Your friendship can’t be contingent on whether or not your friend comes back to faith in Jesus Christ. That’s up to Him, not you. You may have to hang in there for years before your friend re-embraces faith. No problem. 

Never give up on your friendship. True, some will walk away. But never let it be said that you walked away.


Editor’s Note: You’re welcome to share these 10 steps with your church. Just be sure to “give honor where honor is due” (Romans 13:7), starting with recognizing the author and source, of course!


David Sanford is an author and speaker. His latest book, Loving Your Neighbor: Surprise! It’s Not What You Think, is available wherever good books are sold. His professional biography is posted online at www.linkedin.com/in/drsanford. His personal biography includes his wife, Renée, their five children, and twelve grandchildren (including one in heaven).







What’s Your Story

By inviting a friend, neighbor, or acquaintance to tell his or her story, we learn more than a set of facts. If we listen carefully, we end up learning how they think, feel, and relate to others.

Even more importantly, a bond is formed when we resist the temptation to talk and instead simply hear that person’s story, no matter how long it is. Yes, it may mean missing your next appointment.

Yet something very deep happens, between that person and me, once I’ve heard his or her story. I get glimpses of God’s fingerprints all over his or her story. It doesn’t always mean I’ll have the opportunity to introduce and eventually hook their interest in God’s stories. Then again, that’s often what happens.

The crazy thing? Nobody ever asks, “What’s your story?” So, many people are caught off guard, and may put up an initial defense. But if you keep smiling, allow for silence, and then ask again, many will begin.

So, never hesitate to ask the most beautiful of questions.

Editor’s Note: You’re welcome to share this article with your church. Just be sure to “give honor where honor is due” (Romans 13:7), starting with recognizing the author and source, of course!


David Sanford is an author and speaker. His latest book, Loving Your Neighbor: Surprise! It’s Not What You Think, is available wherever good books are sold. His professional biography is posted online at www.linkedin.com/in/drsanford. His personal biography includes his wife, Renée, their five children, and twelve grandchildren (including one in heaven).