“Dear brothers and sisters, when problems come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – James 1:2-4, NLT
Bright and sunny with a soft breeze.
That was the climate this particular morning and exactly how I like it when headed out for a walk. I pulled on my exercise clothes and wrestled my then 2-year-old son, Jude, out of his pajamas and into some play clothes.
We headed out to the back patio to the old jogging stroller I’d found at a discount, on-line thrift store. As always, my son rushed toward it, excited to head out for our usual 45-minute walk that we took three times a week together around the neighborhood.
He loved these walks for many reasons. There were high-spirited dogs to see as they chased and barked from behind their wooden fences, stones to gather and toss into dry creek beds, and best of all, downhill runs that offered a faster pace and exciting thrill. These hills couldn’t come soon enough for him. The flat ground in between one and the next was always too long for his liking. He wanted to have the burst of momentum that only the downhill potions offered. He liked it when I let go of the stroller’s handle bars and ran along side of him instead of behind him. The energy. The speed. The vitality.
On this morning, we were barely off of our concrete driveway when he yelled “Let’s go faster!”. Pointing to the uphill crest in front of us, he leaned forward in enthusiastic anticipation and chirped “Let me go, Mommy! Let me go!”. I looked at the graduating elevation before me and realized that he had his directions mixed up. An incline wouldn’t give him the speed he was looking for. The hill had to turn in the opposite direction for his desires to be met. An uphill climb made speed hard to come by – maybe not as much for him, tucked away in that comfy stroller – but certainly for me, the one pushing and panting (near collapse) from behind. Sure, we could achieve it, but it sure would be more difficult. What he wanted would be best achieved when this uphill journey became one pointed down.
I assured him that on the other side of the summit, where the curve of the paved road seemed to meet with the sky, he’d get what he wanted – a full-speed race down to the bottom.
A down hill journey would set the perfect stage for maximum momentum to occur.
“Things are looking up.”
That’s what we say when the downturns of life take the direction we’ve been hoping and praying for. We much prefer the “up hill” portions of our journey – the seasons where things are headed in an optimistic and positive trend. And rightfully so. None of us would likely choose the more difficult “down” times over the easier to manage or at least easier to accept rise of the “up” ones.
Yet there is a spiritual momentum and full speed faith that is often best acquired when things are looking down. Somehow, when our days and details are not going in a way we’d prefer there is an element of eagerness in our seeking and searching for God that picks up the pace and intensifies in speed.
To be clear, we can most certainly experience spiritual growth when things are going well. Thank the Lord that difficulty is not a requirement for discipleship. God can work in every distinct season of our life and use it for His purpose. But in our quest for happiness and ease could we be sacrificing the spiritual growth and momentum that we deeply desire on the fleeting altar of good times? Is there a possibility that in our drastic attempts to keep ourselves and our loved ones from experiencing the “downs” we are being robbed, and robbing others, of the optimum environment for spiritual speed to be gathered, distance to be covered, endurance and character to developed and quickened faith to be cemented into place?
“…when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy…your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow…”
Maybe, instead of merely detesting the “down times” we can also be expectant of the high speed work God is preparing to do in us while we are passing through them. Maybe, just maybe, the warp speed with which He wants to propel us to the next dimension of our callings will be best achieved on this side of the hill of life. We can and must address and encourage each other through harsh realities, yes, and we can also count it as our privilege to make our requests for His intervention in our lives known. But we must also have the sting of joyful and holy fervor that reminds us that our more difficult days are propelling us onto new spiritual plateaus. Somehow, through this, we start trusting more fully, believing more abundantly, expecting more wholly and our hearts start percolating with a newfound spiritual passion.
Things looking down, my friend?
We’ll pray that things will look up again real soon but until then. . . lean forward into the fast and furious winds of grace whipping wildly through your hair and prepare for the ride of your life.