At the beginning of this year, our eldest Judah, went to Rainbows End with a bunch of mates. A few of us parents tagged along for supervision and after riding the Fearfall, the log flume and the rollercoaster they made their way to the Stratosfear. This has two levels of intensity. The lower level, which they call less extreme, formed a ride a little bit like the pirate ship. The motion was a back and forth but nothing too intense – just enough to make you want to bring up your breakfast, you know? Then there was the higher intensity level – the very extreme. If you lined up for the very extreme your ride was closer to a near-death experience than a fun Leisure park ride. This thing would swing side to side, going higher and higher until you reach the pinnacle of the ride where you were dangling upside down for approx 5 of the longest seconds of your life before you carried over making a full 360 circle around.
So, the kids all jump in the line for this ride…all of them jumping on the lower intensity one…all except Judah…who jumps into the one that leaves you to dangle 30 metres in the sky. Before I had a chance to change his mind he is strapped into this ride. Now Judah may have been tall enough for the ride but I feel like someone should have checked if he was wide enough – cos that boy is as skinny as a rake and rattled around in that thing as if at any moment he could have fallen through the harness.
Now I know that it is manufactured to the highest safety standards, and I know it would have gone through tests and trials to prove it was trustworthy. But you could not have reassured me enough as I watched my skinny 11-year-old make a 360 spin upside down. I couldn’t watch. I wanted to be sick at the sight of it. I have never felt more relieved than when his feet hit the floor and he was safe on solid ground.
I can’t help but think that sometimes life feels like we are dangling upside down from 30 metres high, putting all our trust in the thing that’s holding us there.
Most of the time life is less extreme, isn’t it? It has its moments, you need the harness, you are still holding on, but you come to expect it and you know you can manage it. It is simply the ebbs and flows of life.
And then there are years like the last 2-3 years where life feels like you are on the ‘very extreme’ version for the ride. You are spun in a full 360 spending what feels like a lifetime hanging on for dear life. You have no option but to close your eyes, hold on, and hope it will be over soon.
I need to be honest and tell you that 2020 was the hardest year of our lives and covid had nothing to do with it. We came home from our sabbatical in February ready to take on a new role, a new season, and a new challenge. Little did we know the journey that we were about to go on was one that would have us clinging to our faith like never before. Significant health challenges, both physical and mental, had us questioning if we could continue with our lives as we knew it or if these difficulties were set to throw us off course altogether. For most of 2020, I felt like I was hanging upside-down 30 meters above the ground wishing for the day my feet felt solid ground again!
It was one of those ‘very extreme’ seasons where I had no choice but to hold on to the very thing that was holding me.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Those seasons teach us what it means to trust in the Lord with all you have, to lean on him, and to submit to his ways. After all, what other choice do we have?
Here’s what I had to learn:
1. I am not responsible for everything.
Some of you know the feeling of the weight of the world on your shoulders and it’s because you are insisting that you carry everything.
We have somehow come up with this crazy notion that we have to carry it all and carry it all ourselves.
But Trust means letting go of the false responsibility that I have assigned myself to carry everything.
It means trusting God to carry what I shouldn’t or couldn’t carry. It means trusting others to carry what I shouldn’t or couldn’t carry.
How many of you are trapped in the, “If I don’t do it, no one else will” cycle? Hello – guilty over here!
Maybe today you need to ask yourself, what am I carrying that isn’t mine to carry alone? Maybe it’s time to trust God to carry it.
2. I may never fully get it.
I would like us to look to the Book of Job for just a moment where we see a man whose whole life is turned upside down. He is hanging on for dear life. He loses his livelihood, his children, his home, his health… and throughout the book we see multiple friends trying to explain Jobs hardship to him. Trying to give him a reason for his suffering.
“You must have done something to deserve it”.
“You must have sin in your life”.
“God must be judging you”
“God must be punishing you”
“There must be a lesson for you to learn”.
And the interesting part about the book of Job is that after 37 chapters all trying to hypothesise the reason for Jobs suffering, we finally hear from God. But have you ever asked someone something and after giving you a really long answer you realise they haven’t actually answered your question? You are still none the wiser. I think that’s what Job might have felt like here. Because God responds to Job and his friends but as you read it you will notice that he doesn’t actually answer their questions, He doesn’t give them the answer they are looking for, he doesn’t tell them why Job is suffering, he simply reminds them that he is still in control (have a read of Job 38 when you have a moment).
He simply says, “Trust me, I’ve got this”.
The truth is when you are in a season of confusion and chaos, you may never fully get it but you can know the one who does.
I am not sure what circumstance of confusion and chaos in your life is causing you to ask questions that you are struggling to get answers on but can I suggest that your point of reconciliation moves from, “I need to get answers” to “I need to seek peace even when the answers don’t come”.
Trusting God means I have a place to take my questions and while I may not find all the answers I will find peace in his sovereignty.
3. The rest is up to God.
I can remember during a season of chaos feeling totally overwhelmed and completely inadequate, a very wise friend said to me, “It’s ok, we will just do as much as we can do and God will just have to do the rest. We have no other option.”
I realised at that moment that in seasons of chaos trust meant standing back and watching God at work.
Sometimes you can’t do more, be more, give more, say more…your only option is to take a step back and let God step in.
The rest is up to God.
Here’s the bottom line:
We trust what (or who) we know.
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:10 (NIV)
When I know Him trust is an overflow.
When I am on that roller coaster hitting the very extreme parts of the ride my only option is to trust the one who is holding me. And knowing that I can only trust the one I know means that I also have no option but to lean into him. Spend more time (not less) with him. Pray more, not less. Seek more, not less. Praise more, not less. Read more of his word, not less.
Because when I know him trust will simply overflow!