Feb 9, 2013

The Roller Coaster of Genuine Faith

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
      You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.

My children like to ride roller coasters. So, as a dutiful father, I often join them. I actually enjoy some roller coasters, the ones that are relatively smooth. But the ones that jerk me around from side to side are a pain in the neck…literally! Nevertheless, I hang in there with my children because being in relationship with them makes it all worthwhile.

Psalm 30 can feel like one of those rough roller coasters. It begins with David’s praise of God, who delivered him from what seemed like certain death (vv. 1-3). Thus David calls others to join in his celebration (vv. 4-5). But then, just as he felt “secure as a mountain,” the Lord “turned away” from David and he felt “shattered” (vv. 6-7). In desperation he cried out to God for mercy (vv. 8-10). The Lord responded positively, turning David’s mourning into dancing and endless thanksgiving (vv. 11-12).

Those are quick and dramatic changes of direction in only twelve verses. Thus Psalm 30 illustrates what might well be called “the roller coaster of genuine faith.” Though the twists and turns of our life might not be quite as abrupt as David’s, nevertheless we know what it’s like to move from security to shattering, from blessing to begging.  And, by God’s grace, we also have experienced, like David, the deliverance that comes after the trauma.

Psalm 30 models for us how to live in relationship with an unpredictable God. When we are blessed, we offer thanks and praise. When it seems as if God has abandoned us, we cry out with abandon. Just as there is nothing neat and tidy about Psalm 30, so it is in our relationship with God. Yet David’s example encourages us to stay in that relationship even when we can’t figure out what God is doing. We hang in there on the roller coaster of faith because being in relationship with God makes it all worthwhile.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:  Has your relationship with God ever felt like a roller coaster ride? When? Are you someplace on that ride right now? Are you as free as David to stay in relationship with God no matter what happens? Why or why not?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I must admit that a lot of me wishes that relationship with you were not such a roller coaster. Sometimes I’d prefer a nice, peaceful, predictable boat cruise. Indeed, there are times like that in life. But they don’t last. Before long, I’m hanging onto you for dear life once again.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that you’re hanging onto me for dear life, my life that is dear to you. Thank you for not letting go of me when I am consumed by fear or doubt. Thank you for hearing my prayers even when they’re not especially nice…or theologically appropriate.

Lord, today I’m thinking of people I know who are in the middle of a scary roller coaster ride with you. Hang onto them, Lord. Reassure them with your presence. Bring them to a place of peace and rest. Help them to have confidence that you will never let go of them. Amen.

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