But roller coasters? They rattled my teeth, slung my head around painfully on my neck and didn't just flip my stomach, they yanked it up nearly into my throat. I had boys, however, and Ferris wheels were far too calm and boring for them. So roller coaster we did, up and down and around till I just knew the flimsy little car we sat in would fly off the track at any moment.
Roller coasters have been around a long time. They are direct descendants of huge ice slides, sometimes as high as 70 feet, which were popular in Russia in the 16th and 17th centuries. Riders slid down them on sleds, crashing into a pile of sand at the bottom. The French imported the idea, but since France was much warmer, they began using wax instead of ice. They eventually added wheels to the sleds. Then back in Russia, in 1817, the cars were finally attached to tracks.
On August 16, 1896, Edwin Prescott was awarded a patent for the first Loop-de-Loop roller coaster, or as it was also called, a vertical loop. In an attempt to improve comfort, he added rubber wheels and an elliptical shape to the loop rather than a circle. Still, a lot of people complained. The forces on the human body caused aches and pains that many did not care to experience.
The same is true of living on a roller coaster in life. While it is true that we will have our ups and downs, that peaks and valleys in life are normal, letting them have constant sway in our lives will make our faith vulnerable and the steadfastness God asks of us only an impossible dream. Yes, we may falter once in a while. Many passages speak of faith in flux, but as we mature in that faith, the flux should become smaller and smaller. David speaks of the opposite of a roller coaster faith, even when he is running for his life in Psalm 57:7. “My heart is steadfast, O God,” or, in several other versions, “My heart is fixed.” In a time of fear when others would have wavered, David is able to keep his faith in God steady.
So the question is, how do we avoid the roller coasters in life? First, let’s make it clear—you can’t avoid the park altogether. I hear people talking about life as if it is always supposed to be fun, always easy, always good, and something is wrong when anything bad happens. Nonsense. We live on an earth that has been cursed because man sinned. When God curses something, he does a bang-up job of it. To think we would still be living in something resembling Eden is ridiculous.
We are all dying from the moment we are born. Some of us just manage to hang on longer than others. Some of us catch diseases because they are out there due to sin and Satan. Some of us become injured. Some of us have disabilities. Some of us are never able to lead a normal life. It has nothing to do with God being mean, or not loving us, or not paying attention to us one way or the other, and everything to do with being alive. Everyone receives bad news once in a while—it isn’t out of the ordinary. Everyone experiences moments of fear and doubt. We all go through trials. But just because you are in the park, doesn’t mean you have to get on the roller coaster.
We must have a steadfast faith no matter what happens to us. “The Lord is faithful; He will establish you…” 2 Thes 3:3. Our hearts can be “established by grace,” Heb 13:9. But those things are nebulous, nothing we can really lay our hands on in our daily struggles. Am I supposed to just think real hard about God and grace and somehow get stronger? Yes, it will help, but God knows we are tethered to this life through tangible things and He gives us plenty of that sort of help as well, help we sometimes do not want to recognize because of the responsibility it places upon us to act. Why, if God gives us help, I no longer have an excuse for my failure, do I?
We must be willing to be guided to that steadfastness by faithful leaders, 2 Thes 3:3-5. We must be willing to obey God’s law, James 1:22-24, and live a life of righteousness, Psa 112:6, before steadfastness makes an appearance. We must become a part of God’s people and associate with them as much as possible, Heb 10:19-25. We must study the lives of those who have gone before and imitate their steadfastness, laying aside sin if we hope to endure as they did, Heb 12:1-2. Every one of those things will keep us off the roller coaster.
Yeah, right, the world says--to change one’s life and become part of God’s people, the church—for some reason those are the very things they will laugh to scorn. And we fall for what they preach--a Jesus who “loves me as I am” without demanding any change, and divides His body from His being, labeling it a manmade placeholder for the true kingdom to come. “I can have a relationship with God without having a relationship with anyone else,” we say, and promptly climb aboard the roller coaster, Satan laughing gleefully at us from the control booth. Guess what? That’s who we are having a relationship with.
Get off the roller coaster now before he has you riding up and down so fast, with your head whipping back and forth at every dip and turn, that you are unable to reach the grounding your faith needs. You may still have moments of weakness and doubt, but those things will grow less and less if you make use of the help God has given you. You can have a steadfast faith, even if it finds you, like David, hiding in a cave from your enemies. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast…For your steadfast love is great to the heavens; your faithfulness to the clouds. Psa 57:7,10
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58.