I think I was about 14 when I had my first roller coaster experience. Why in the world am I doing this?! I remember thinking, as my wagon chugged up to that first drop-off and my blood drained into my feet. Then began the heart-thumping succession of extreme ups and downs with no stopping place, no exit. My only option was to hold on for dear life and finish the course.
The first few months after I received Jesus as my Savior were like that roller coaster ride. There were times when I was up, and times when I was down—really down! Sometimes I would think, as my little “wagon” headed upward, This is great, and it just keeps getting better! Happiness is here to stay! Then I would hit a peak and stall momentarily before plunging to the depths of doubt and disillusionment. I hadn’t yet learned that to “walk by faith, not by sight” 1 meant I was supposed to hitch my wagon to God’s unchangeable promises, not my ever-changing feelings.
On my happy “up” days I concluded that I must have done something right. Perhaps I had been exceptionally humble or in step with God’s path for me. Whatever it had been, it had propelled me across some invisible boundary and I was now headed for a higher spiritual plane, leaving normal earthlings far behind. I felt like I was on top of the world, and was proud of myself. I had climbed my Everest!
But invariably, just when I was feeling so proud about my supposed spiritual progress and revelations, I would catch sight of the real me with my very real problems. Much to my horror, I would find that I hadn’t attained after all. I’d merely reached a momentary peak—one of a series of many on my months-long roller coaster ride of basing my spiritual life on feelings, with all its loop-the-loops and unexpected downturns.
Finally, at the end of the track, as I coasted to a dazed and dizzied stop, I was astounded to find that God still loved me! He was like a daddy, taking me in His arms, reassuring me that everything would be all right, and carrying me until the nauseous feeling of failure had passed.
It took several such rides before I could see with crystal clarity how unconditional God’s love really is. No matter how low I sank or how high I thought I was, His love was constant. Whenever I hit bottom and then reached out to Him in prayer, a feeling of peace, safety, and acceptance would enclose me. It’s as though He would pick me up, dust me off, give me a kiss and a pat, put my feet firmly back on the solid ground of His Word, and point me in the right direction—always with a loving smile and some word of encouragement. The verse “God is love” 2 took on a whole new meaning.
Finally, I learned that my floundering efforts to attain some self-prescribed state of spirituality only hindered God from directing my life. Once I saw this, I quit trying so hard to be a certain way and began trusting that He, in fact, was in control and would help me to be what He wanted me to be.
It took several years for me to comprehend what true spirituality really is, and that to be “up there” isn’t the goal at all. True humility is seeing I can’t make it without God’s loving hand at work in my life, and true religion is passing His love on to others.
Now, whenever I see a roller coaster I stop and send up a prayer to thank God for His love and patience, and for His Word that got me off the roller coaster track of feelings and self-made spirituality and keeps me on the right track—the straight and narrow way that leads to a heavenly life with Him now and forever!
God doesn’t love us because we’re good or because we work hard for Him. He loves us because love is a core aspect of His character and because He chooses to. And He chooses to extend an invite to each of us: “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free! I will give you all the unfailing love I promised.” 3 You can accept His invitation right now:
Dear Jesus, I accept Your love and Your invitation. Please come into my life and forgive me for the wrong things I’ve done. Help me to love You and others. Amen.
- 2 Corinthians 5:7
- 1 John 4:8
- Isaiah 55:1,3 NLT