I could hardly wait for the morning my husband and daughter left town for a daddy-daughter getaway. I secretly planned a trip to Six Flags with our two younger sons. It was a hero gift for my thrill-seeking boys; no doubt, they would consider me a rock star. I wasn’t going to be one of those fraidy-cat mamas, either. I’d ride every ride with them and re-live my own youth, where debilitating fear meant nothing compared to peer pressure.
My bravado lasted all of one ride. In one mighty gust, the Georgia Cyclone blew away every smidgen of courage I had summoned.
Strapped in my seat with the boys safely in front of me, I clenched my eyes shut and started pleading with God before we ever left the station. I have an irrational fear of heights, so prayer is vital. It calms me enough to stave off cardiac arrest.
In this case, however, height wasn’t the problem. I had forgotten the iconic wooden roller coaster would feel like someone beating you with broomsticks and baseball bats. If I lived through it, I was unsure I could ever walk again. Jerked along those tracks at 50mph and dropped five-and-a-half stories at a time, I actually worried who would drive Thomas and Stephen home if their mother became an instant paraplegic.
I could not wait to get off that crazy train. It was the longest 108 seconds of my life. (What a difference twenty years had made!)
I’ve felt that way over the past twelve months or so. While last year started with the best of times for me personally, it quickly devolved into something else entirely. With 2020’s parade of unfortunate events — like a ride on that iconic wooden roller coaster — I just wanted to stop the madness.
And, now, here we are.
At times, I’ve been deeply grieved. This country has felt more like the Divided States of America, and hearts have become cauldrons of hostility, a dangerous brew of rage and rights. The consequences have brought daily headlines that stir fear, anxiety, and anger.
And as we continue to wrestle, I hope we can remember that we are a people with hope! The good news of the gospel is greater than any bad news of the day.
Isn’t it heartening to think about the word gospel? God knew the state of the world we’d be born into, and He offered exactly what was desperately needed: good news.
That good news arrived in human form when God gave us the gift of Himself. In His incarnation, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we’re given a life-giving, peace-yielding message of hope.
As I’ve prayed for you, the (in)courage family for which I hold great affection, I wonder if your once-strong faith feels more like a memory than reality. Are you having a hard time handling ___________? That blank could be filled with any number of reasons, each one a fiery dart taking aim at your heart. Maybe you’ve found yourself questioning God, full of doubt, and struggling to know how to respond in light of the world around us? How can we find peace amid uncertain and tumultuous circumstances? Is there a way to become the change we long to see in our world? Is there anything we can do to strengthen a faith battered by protests, the pandemic, politics, and the piles of disappointment?
I’m living proof there is. A year ago, I shared my story with the world, and I’m more convinced than ever that God is at work in our wandering.
Sure, a lot has happened between then and now — 2020 was an explosive amalgam of cataclysmic, history-making events — but the Bible has not changed. We can trust the truth of Scripture. In fact, it’s the only truth we can trust.
In Luke 9:23, Jesus shows us a way to deepen our faith:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
His words were simple calls to action, but not easy ones. They all require intention, a deliberate choice to be obedient to Jesus.
In believing and receiving Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life, we go after — or follow — Him. “Denying ourselves” is where it gets harder because we must surrender the right to our rights. This is where I think many of us struggle because the idea of “surrender” is contrary to a me-focused culture. We feel entitled to “have it my way.” So, it’s crucial to remember that the cross was an instrument of death, the gruesome weapon that killed our Savior. Taking up His cross is a call to our death, of relinquishing and laying down our way to take up His way.
Following Jesus helps us to become more like Him. When Jesus is our focus, fear, anger, and anxiety diminish, and our faith flourishes. When we allow His perfect love to fill our hearts and govern our lives, we change. Then, the world can change as we learn to love as He does.
It is Christ’s love for us that moves us to love Him and others, empowers us to change, and increases our faith. Love always, always, triumphs over hate.Leave a Comment