Thursday, June 30, 2016

TRIALS ARE LIKE ROLLER COASTERS

Expedition Everest @ Animal Kingdom
Walt Disney World

I love roller coasters.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them!

When we lived to Orlando, we lived equal distance from the Disney parks and Universal Studios.  We could be at either place in about 10 minutes and it was not unusual for us to be at a park several times a week.

One morning, after dropping off Alex at school, I was driving home and I decided to take a little detour.  Since my to-do list that day included laundry and cleaning, I thought a little excitement before my boring day would be nice.  I ran into Islands of Adventure and the plan was to ride The Incredible Hulk a couple of times before heading home.  There was no line because it was off-season, so I hopped on and rode the roller coaster.  When the ride was over, I decided to go again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  I ended up riding The Hulk five times in a row... with no wait in-between.

And I got sick.
And I was reminded that I'm old.

I walked to my car, drove home and was sick the rest of the day.

I told that rather embarrassing story to our Small Group a couple of weeks ago.
We were finishing up our journey through the book of James and talking about some of our takeaways and ended up talking about trials.

James shows us the lens from which we are to view trials….

“Count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds.”
{James 1:2-3}

Jesus warns that we will face many trials…

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world."
{John 16:33}

Peter tells us how to respond to trials…

"So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold— though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trialsit will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."
{1 Peter 1:6-7}

Joy in trials?
Gladness in suffering?

I was thinking this morning about some of the past trials in my life and how God has used them to mold me and shape me into the person He has purposed me to be.

Each trial was difficult.
Each trial was different.
Each trial demanded something of me.

One thing that helps me in a trial is I assign it a roller coaster.
I’m weird.  I know.

Some trials come into your life like Doctor Doom’s Fearfall.  You are minding your own business and before you know it, 3-2-1-ZERO.  You are “rocketed skyward 185 feet into the air then hurled back down faster than the force of gravity itself.”  It is a lot at once, but as quickly as it came into your life, it’s over. 

Some trials start out nice and smooth like Expedition Everest, but on the ride, a lot of unexpected things happen and you think this ride might just be the end of you.  Just when you think you are about to fall off a cliff, the ride starts going backwards.  You can’t see where you’re going.  You feel kind of sick.  The enemy jumps out at you a few times to fill you with terror.  And then it’s over.  And you are amazed and find yourself telling people about the ride because it forever changed you and it was so worth it!

Some trials keep you in the dark like Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  The trial comes on fast and you find yourself spiraling in the dark.  You can’t see where you are going.  It feels lonely and isolating.  But 3 inversions, 2 rollover loops and 1 corkscrew later, you see light and you come to a stop.  You made it.  You survived and you can’t imagine your life before that experience.

I could literally walk you through all of my favorite roller coasters.

Each ride costs me something.
Each ride makes me feel alive.
Each ride allows me see the world through different eyes.

I can remember the first time I rode each and every one.  And when I ride them now, I get on with great anticipation of what is to come and of what I will experience.

I think that's the way we are suppose to approach trials.

“Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
{James 1:2-4}

Joy.
Grace recognized.

Trials.
The testing of a man’s integrity, character, virtue, consistency.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.”
{Malachi 3:3}

To refine silver, a silversmith holds the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames are the hottest to burn away all the impurities.  The silversmith has to sit there in front of the fire the whole time and keep constant watch because if the silver is left too long, it will be destroyed.

So when Malachi tells us that God sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, he means that He sits, keeping constant watch of you.  He holds you in the hottest part of the fire to refine and purify you, but He doesn't leave you and never takes His eyes off of you.

That feels so incredibly safe.
I want to be anywhere that God sits looks intently, eyes fixed on me.

But how does God know when you are refined?
The same way a silversmith knows when the silver is fully refined.
He can see His image in it.

Trials are God testing you, refining you, purifying you, so He can look down and see His reflection.  His goal for you and for me is to be a reflection of His son, Jesus.

So when you find yourself in the middle of trial, a roller coaster, remember that God has taken His place right beside you.  He has strapped Himself in and is along for the entire ride, watching you the entire time.

The ride will never be longer that it needs to be.
The ride will never be the end of you.

So sit back, buckle yourself in, acknowledge that God is with you, and enjoy the ride.

“…we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance
produces character, and character produces hope"
{Romans 5:3-4}

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