March 13, 2016 • Life for Leaders
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy
My children, Nathan and Kara, like to ride roller coasters. So, as a dutiful father, I often join them. I actually enjoy some roller coasters, the ones that are relatively smooth. But the ones that jerk me around from side to side are a pain in the neck…literally! Nevertheless, I hang in there with my children because being in relationship with them makes it all worthwhile. (In the photo to the right, Nathan and Kara are in the second car. Notice that I am on the ground, taking the picture.)
We hang in there on the roller coaster of faith because being in relationship with God makes it all worthwhile.
Psalm 30 can feel like one of those rough roller coasters. It begins with David’s praise of God, who delivered him from what seemed like certain death (vv. 1-3). Thus David calls others to join in his celebration (vv. 4-5). But then, just as he felt “established . . . as a strong mountain,” the Lord hid his face from David and he felt “dismayed” (vv. 6-7). In desperation, he cried out to God for mercy (vv. 8-10). The Lord responded positively, turning David’s mourning into dancing and endless thanksgiving (vv. 11-12).
Those are quick and dramatic changes of emotional direction in only twelve verses. Thus Psalm 30 illustrates the roller coaster of genuine faith. Though the twists and turns of our life might not be quite as abrupt as David’s, nevertheless we know what it’s like to move from security to shattering, from blessing to begging. And, by God’s grace, we also have experienced, like David, the deliverance that comes after the trauma.
Psalm 30 models for us how to live in relationship with a God who can feel very unpredictable. When we are blessed, we offer thanks and praise. When it seems as if God has abandoned us, we cry out with abandon. Just as there is nothing neat and tidy about Psalm 30, so it is in our relationship with God. Yet David’s example encourages us to stay in that relationship even when we can’t figure out what God is doing. We hang in there on the roller coaster of faith because being in relationship with God makes it all worthwhile.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Has your relationship with God ever felt like a roller coaster ride? When? Are you someplace on that ride right now?
Are you as free as David to stay in relationship with God no matter what happens? Why or why not?
Heavenly Father, I must admit that a lot of me wishes that relationship with you were not such a roller coaster. Sometimes I’d prefer a nice, peaceful, predictable boat cruise. Indeed, there are times like that in life. But they don’t last. Before long, I’m hanging onto you for dear life once again.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that you’re hanging onto me for dear life, my life that is dear to you. Thank you for not letting go of me when I am consumed by fear or doubt. Thank you for hearing my prayers even when they’re not especially nice . . . or theologically tidy.
Lord, today I’m thinking of people I know who are in the middle of a scary roller coaster ride with you. Hang onto them! Reassure them with your presence. Bring them to a place of peace and rest. Help them to have confidence that you will never let go of them. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.