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Deer Feet: Treading on High Places

Sep 11, 2016 06:18AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith

Habakkuk 3:19, ESV, Habakkuk speaking

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer's;

he makes me tread on my high places.

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

Do you ever feel like there are insurmountable obstacles on the way to your goal(s)?

Does it seem as if, intentionally or unintentionally, other people are placing one obstruction in your path after another?

Do your plans and intentions become bogged down with interruptions and the weight of life?

Back-to-school week hit me like that. What should have freed up of my work schedule to involve more day hours than night ones did not play out as I had envisioned. The angst of three children dealing with different stresses upon school reentry hit me like a brick every day for the first week. One day I received a phone call 20 minutes into the school day from a nurse with an anxious child (mine) in her office. Seriously? I just dropped him off not 20 minutes before! What could have possibly happened in that short span of time?

Yeah, not convenient.

One of my family members had an unexpected hurdle in his way not too long ago—not one brought on by his own choices. There was something he needed to investigate and confront, and when he came to me for advice, he expressed his desire to be humble through the process. Even so, it was clear he was caught off-guard by the situation he was in, and he needed to form a plan. Wanting to respect the other parties involved, he didn’t take this lightly.

That same day, as I was sitting outside one of my children’s activities, a verse from a friend suddenly appeared in the comments section of one of my posts on social media. It was Habakkuk 3:19.

This verse landed on our laps after praying on and off for a few hours. We sought the Lord for wisdom and guidance, but we still had that unsettled feeling.

Then in came the promise of deer feet on high places. 

What on earth does that mean, and why did that bring such peace to my heart?

Well, deer are very agile and sure-footed. They can ascend to very high places where other animals cannot always go because they may be more unsteady, lack the proper footing or body design, or simply have too much bulk to climb very high.  

Hmm. When life knocks me around a bit, I can easily feel:


lacking proper footing,


How about you?

Add to this that Habakkuk (a prophet of God) was choosing to praise and trust God at a time when his nation, Judah, was not. It’s not as if he was making this statement when his stocks were doing well, his promotion kicked in, his child made honor roll, and his mother-in-law decided she liked him after all these years. He was declaring truth about God without feeling it or even seeing it.

Oh, Habakkuk, Buddy, how I need to come sit at your feet a while and take a few lessons from you. My footing gets a little wobbly, and I whine as if the whole earth is crumbling. At times, I don’t even look up far enough to set my eyes on high places. I often don’t believe they are even there.

Discouragement has a way of making us think we are stuck right where we are, grounded and heavy laden. It buries our heads in the soil and makes us think our world is just a few feet high.

But Habakkuk says the LORD takes us to high places.

Do you believe him?

When this particular family member gave his situation over to God, fully, this verse came in from an unexpected saint. That’s how God is. He loves us enough to get our attention through the unusual. He wanted him to know how He hears and answers—how His world is not merely a foot in height or limited by that which jumps in our way on any given day.

God sent this verse to let him know He wants to take him to high places.

And what about you?

If it’s hard to picture the deer feet He gives you when you pray and ask for His help to lift you up to high places, consider what Habakkuk declared a chapter before this:

Habakkuk 2:1, ESV

I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

Do you see how confident he was that the LORD would not only hear him but also speak?

Do you find it difficult or easy to look out and wait for the Lord? Are you patient and determined enough in your prayer life to station yourself as a lookout, a person committed to the watchpost? Habakkuk even thoughtfully considered what his own response would be.

Habakkuk served as the LORD’s scribe to communicate to the people, and after many “woe to him”s the LORD ended His spoken word to Habakkuk with this:

Habakkuk 2:20, ESV

“But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him."

What a profound reminder of God’s presence being enough! He is reigning and in control.

It’s important to consider Habakkuk’s response to all that the LORD has shared with him. The entire book ends with rehearsing the Lord’s mighty, and sometimes fierce, acts of judgment and justice, with this tacked onto the end:

Habakkuk 3:18-19, ESV

…yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

Um, what now?

“Yet I will rejoice.” “I will take joy.”

It seems it would be difficult to reconcile that with this rather disturbing conversation between Habakkuk and the LORD if he let it end right there with verse 18.

But he doesn’t.

And we don’t have to either.

When our world swirls with conflict, stress, a challenge, a hurt, or a struggle of any magnitude (yes, any), we can lay hold of what Habakkuk does here and declare why we are going to rejoice anyway.

Because (and please say this to yourself):

GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places (emphasis mine).

Look up. Remember you stood on your watchtower awaiting an answer. And no matter what the answer is, you can answer like Habakkuk because it carries through any circumstance.

Expect that when you do look up, pretty soon you’ll be looking down at your feet, suddenly having sprung into action sitting on higher ground—

—and you won’t know how you got there, other than to cry out:

Thank You, Abba (Father). You make me tread on my high places.


Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.

Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.



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