It’s ironic that I was studying the Psalms of Ascent when my foot slipped, and I fell down a half flight of concrete stairs and fractured my tailbone while on a mission trip in Peru. Psalm 121 is one of the most famous from this category, and verse three clearly states: "He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber."
We are memorizing this Psalm as part of our study, so these words were on my mind. Someone in the class had already brought up the question of whether we can take these words literally. She asked about the phrase, "he will keep you from all harm". I hadn’t had a chance to answer her email question because I was leaving town and busy packing; but I can definitely answer it today and, in fact, answer it better. Although keeping my foot from slipping was not my literal experience, I clung to Psalm 121:3 through my descent and fall. After my tumble, I found new strength from this verse and this Psalm.
I definitely needed extra help from the Lord. I was the leader of the trip and my participation and leadership was essential. The Lord gave me all the help I needed to get through the retreat with His empowering Spirit of love and endurance. Each day He would tell me to endure—that was my part.
I do believe that God has literally kept my foot from slipping on more than one occasion. The reality is that I don’t even know how many times my carelessness should have resulted in some catastrophe that God simply spared me from without a need to be recognized. Personally I am thankful that He kept anyone else from slipping on this trip; as their leader, it would have been much harder on me if one of my team had this injury. Even in my slip, I could sense that God was there keeping me. The place my tailbone fractured allowed me to sit and stand in some positions without pain. Sleeping was much harder until I got home for treatment. I wasn’t forcing a smile when I led my team and fully participated in the aspects of the retreat that were assigned to me. This was proof of God’s presence and protection through my fall. When I couldn’t sleep at night, the second part of verse three was a great comfort to me.
I remembered the many times in the gospel that Jesus spent the whole night in prayer. I have purposely spent one night in prayer during a retreat, but usually it requires an inability to sleep for me to turn to prayer in the night—which doesn’t happen to me very often. When I couldn’t slumber or sleep, I thought of the reality that God doesn’t slumber or sleep. He was with me in the night, assuring me that He would supply the strength I would need for the next day; and He did!
Some may question the reality of God’s promises if people slip from time to time. Personally, I don’t doubt that this promise is true. I see it that God kept me from slipping in a way that would prevent me from doing what He called me to do. I do look to the hills for my help and find that my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He knows how to get His work done, and I completely trust Him in that!