” Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles 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 is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:2-4, NLT
Bright and sunny with a soft breeze – exactly how I like the morning weather when headed out for a walk. I pulled on my exercise clothes and tugged and tossed my rambunctious two year old around on his changing table until I could wrestle him out of his pj’s and into a yellow pair of shorts, a plain, white tee and bright blue crocks. (Coordination is not a prerequisite for this morning walk.)
We headed to the back patio as usual to get the old jogging stroller I’d found at a discount, on-line thrift store. Jude rushed toward it, excited to head out for our 45-minute walk that we took three times a week together around the neighboring streets near our home.
He loved this walk for many reasons. There were high-spirited dogs to see as they chased and barked from behind their wooden fences, stones to stop and gather and, best of all, downhill runs that would enable him to experience the faster pace he was always wanting.
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 a burst of momentum that allowed me to let go of the handle bar and run along side of him instead of behind him, steering and pushing. He liked the autonomy and energy of it.
On this morning, as soon as we started out from our concrete driveway, he immediately asked me to let go so he could “go faster”. Pointing to the uphill crest in front of us, he leaned forward in enthusiastic anticipation and chirped “Let go, Mommy!”. I looked at the graduating elevation before me and realized that he had his directions mixed up. I told him he’d have to wait and told him that this positioning wouldn’t give him the speed he was looking for. I explained that he’d have to wait until the hill turned in the opposite direction. 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 collapsing) from behind. If velocity was what he wanted – the kind that allowed me to jog hands free beside him – he’d have to wait until 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 that kind of momentum.
“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 cresting of the “up” ones.
We like for things to look up and yet sometimes, the spiritual momentum and full speed faith that we desire in our journey with God and into His purposes for our life is best acquired when things are down – not what we’d prefer or ultimately desire. There is an element of eagerness in our seeking and searching for God that picks up the pace and intensifies in speed when things aren’t going as well as we’d like.
By no means am I suggesting that we can’t see spiritual growth when things are good. God can work in every distinct season of our life. But could we be sacrificing the spiritual growth and momentum that we deeply desire on the 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 proper environment for speed to be gathered, distance to be covered and quickened faith to be cemented into place.
So maybe, instead of detesting the “down times” we can also be expectant of the high speed work God must be preparing to do in us while we are passing through them. Maybe, just maybe, the warp speed with which He wants to propel you to the next dimension of your calling will be best achieved on this side of the hill of life. We can and must address and encourage each other through the harsh realities, yes, but we must also have a sting of joyful and holy fever that reminds us that this portion of the journey is giving us the thrust we need to be propelled onto a new spiritual plateau – trusting more fully, believing more abundantly, expecting more wholly and percolating with a newfound spiritual passion that whips wildly within our hearts.
Things looking down, my friend?
We’ll pray that things will look up again real soon but until then. . . . rest in the knowledge that He is near and then prepare for the ride of your life.
Priscilla Shirer, Going Beyond Ministries