Roller Coasters of Life

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9, ESV)

Several years ago, my wife (Melissa) and I took our son (Michael) and a friend of his to an amusement park. I do not remember their exact age, but they were probably around ten. We were all smiles until we decided to board one of the roller coasters. The three of us had ridden rides like that before, but Michael’s friend had not. He immediately showed signs of concern. After some discussion, he agreed to give it a try.

We waited in line until it was our turn to board. Michael’s friend turned pale. At the last minute, he decided he just couldn’t do it. He indicated he had changed his mind and turned to walk away. Here’s where something really cool happened.

Melissa grabbed his hand and said, “Come with me, you can do this.”

I think he was a bit shocked and didn’t know how to respond, so he reluctantly boarded the ride with her and got strapped in. To say that he looked apprehensive would be a massive understatement.

During the ride, I tried to keep an eye on him to see how he was handling it. As the ride progressed through loops and turns, his fear transitioned into excitement.  Once it was over, he could not hide his thankfulness that he had faced his fear and enjoyed the thrilling adventure of his first ride on a roller coaster.

He wanted to ride it over and over again, and the rest of the day he did.

Life is full of its own “roller coasters”.

We all face times in our lives that can easily be compared to a roller coaster. If we see it coming, we look ahead with fear and concern. When we are in the middle of one of life’s “scary rides”, the ups and downs can leave us spinning with anxiety.

Some of these experiences can threaten to overwhelm us. We may feel that everyone is against us or that our situation is hopeless. We may feel that we cannot handle what is in front of us. The unexpected turns spur tremendous fear of the unknown.

As we face the “roller coasters” of life, we are never alone.

One of the important things I took away from watching Melissa lovingly and playfully care for Michael’s friend as he faced his fear was a reminder that we are never alone when we face scary times in our lives. God does not want us to believe for one second that we must face ANYTHING alone.

Fear is a certainty in life. We all have our personal fears that we face each and every day. Some of them are more hidden than others, but they all threaten to hinder and control us. Fear is a powerful motivator, but it is poisonous and leads only to bondage when we give into it. Thankfully there is a better way to live.

The loving presence of God is what we need to face the “roller coasters” of life.

Would Michael’s friend have been able to ride that roller coaster alone? Probably not. He would have found an excuse to avoid it. Even if he couldn’t, he could’ve just run away. He couldn’t possibly imagine he had the courage to step on it and emerge a few minutes later a changed man.

However, with the gentle, caring hand wrapped firm around his, he was able to muster enough nerve to not pull away. He allowed himself to be directed through the very thing he had told himself he could not and would not do.

THAT is what we all need when faced with those things that threaten us in some way. We need to know and believe that God is with us, with His hand firmly holding onto us.

…no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28, ESV)

When we embrace our Father’s love and the fact that He is always much closer than we think, fear loses its grip on us. This isn’t a willpower thing. This is a God thing. It’s His power that is flowing in and through us because God Himself is with us.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…(1 John 4:18, ESV)

Just like Michael’s friend began relaxing into the moment, despite all the twists and turns, we too can experience the same as we face whatever fear is haunting us. Will it be easy? No, it won’t. Facing fears is never easy. Can we do it? Not alone. But by the grace of God as we let Him take us by the hand and lead us, we find with Him all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).