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Toxic Streams of Death

Our minds are a bit like a never-ending river, fed by many streams flowing in. Not all streams, though, bring the waters of life into our river. Some streams are like a toxic, polluted tributary, bringing nothing but death into our river. Streams like this are full of our failures flowing into our minds – short-comings, let-downs, screw-ups, broken things, fears. When we play them over and over in our head we let that toxic water flow freely into the river of our minds, which feeds the lake of our hearts which ultimately fills the ocean of our souls.

We want to focus on joy, on the life-giving streams. To dam up the toxic ones and open up the good ones.  Yet sometimes we find ourselves opening up the floodgates to the waters that bring death. Let me suggest that perhaps the way forward is not to try harder, frantically throwing mud and rocks into the toxic streams. Perhaps, even, the way starts by trudging right through those toxic waters. The psalmists teach us that we can cry out honestly to God. And so we should. I once wrote these lines:


The depths of sorrow

toward which I sink

are of never-ending 


I sink deeper with each



In the speaking out of our sorrows there is a sort of healing that begins. It can lead us to a place of surrender and recognition that nothing else can produce. In this place we can, like the psalmists, begin to turn our tears of sorrow and anguish into cries for help, and then declarations of hope. It’s as if we’re wading upstream in the toxic waters, trying to find the source. And the closer we get, the more desperate we become, leading us to cry out. The Psalms are full of this exact journey. Consider these lines from Psalm 25:


“Turn to me and be gracious to me. For I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied;

Free me from my anguish.”

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.”

“Remember, O’ Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from old.”

“To you, O’ Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O’ my God.”


As we cry out, at some point, often suddenly, like the striking of a match in a pitch dark room, hope bursts forth, in a flash. Then it settles to a dim, but warm glow. And from there, the fire of life deep in our soul can once again be lit. 

Or perhaps more apt to our metaphor, the floodgates burst open from the river of life we had forgotten was always flowing and it overwhelms the toxic stream and flushes it out to a sea of forgetfulness, bringing newness of life. Fresh, clean, cool waters of hope for our thirsty souls. 

The journey to freedom does not go around the toxic streams of our lives. We wade right through and see them up close. But when the living water rushes past and overwhelms it, we simply say, “thank you, God.” May the river of life flood your hearts and minds today.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Joel

Joel Searby

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