I was surprised, especially when I saw a special on The Grand Canyon on satellite TV a few weeks ago. That’s a huge river! They have rafting trips along it that last over several days. I was shocked to see this huge river with very active rapids. My perception from the top of the canyon was way off. It looked so small from where I saw it, but if I had been down there at it, I would have seen something completely different. Something that was, indeed, capable of carving out that canyon, and a whole lot more.
I thought about this yesterday as I was reading my devotional. This year, I’m reading A Year with C.S. Lewis, and the reading was from Mere Christianity. He wrote “That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well … he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along – illness, money troubles, new kinds of temptation – he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him in situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.” Today’s reading continued the course by stating that once God starts working on you, He doesn’t stop – ever – until you attain perfection in Heaven.
That was the word in season that I’ve been seeking. I knew I was getting mired down in things that didn’t really matter. It felt so much like the challenges I face are the same old things, and I wondered why I had to keep going through this, over and over. The devotionals these past two days opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve been mistaking moving up with being stuck and going around the same mountains. It looks the same, but it isn’t. I’m back here not because I didn’t get it last time, but because there’s something else in the situation this time that’s meant to help me rise to a higher level.
But why is this so? The answer struck me yesterday – or within 30 feet of me, literally – when lightening hit a transformer near the traffic light I was at. I saw that bolt of lightening come out of the sky and blow up that transformer. Good grief! That scared me! I just walked out to my car, griping about how running through the rain and thunder was stupid, and here was an indication of what it really was. I wasn’t so tough. I’m a mere human being, at God’s mercy, and I better be glad for it. And being a human being is exactly why these things happen. Time and chance happen to us all, believers or not, but you can count on the fact that if you accept Christ then the Lord is going to use that time and chance to take you out of your shallow little world and lift you up to higher ground. All of life is an evolution process, of moving up from the level you’re at. We’re meant to keep growing, to keep learning, to keep becoming better people as we experience life.
To put it in the context of my Grand Canyon illustration, we aren’t supposed to sit by the river, worrying about what it might do next. Yes, it’s carving rock. It’s transforming the landscape. But you aren’t supposed to sit there and wait. You’re supposed to keep climbing and keep rising so you can see the bigger picture of the beauty it’s creating, from the bottom up.
I think I understand now that trials and troubles are likely more the norm than those quiet seasons. Evolution is a process that never ends, so something is always going to be worked on or worked out. If you put this in context with Lewis’ Law of Undulation from The Screwtape Letters (that life naturally cycles between highs and lows and every human being is at some point in the cycle their entire life), then you get a truer context on how life works. Change will always be there; resistance will always be there; there’s always going to be one more thing to work through; one more higher goal; one more higher standard to attain. As they say, it is always something. But the something that it is isn’t always what we think. The purpose is not to beat you down, or to break you, but to build you up and help you rise to see things more clearly; to see the beauty in what looks like the jumbled mess of life. There’s a method to the madness. We won’t know what it is until we leave this world, but through our experiences we get glimpses of that truth, and of how it all works together. If we put it in perspective, we can allow it to light our path and feed the hope of our faith, a day at a time.
You all know that I’m a big believer in the verse in Galatians 6:7 about reaping and sowing, but it goes on to explain that there’s a method even to that madness. Read two verses further and you’ll see that Paul uses this principle not to admonish people, but to encourage us to keep fighting the good fight when he says “and let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)
Yes, it’s always something. And that’s as it should be. If we persevere, if we take what we’ve learned and allow ourselves to grow, then it’s ascension to a new level. We’ll behold the beauty of what our life is meant to be. And the raging rivers of life don’t look quite so intimidating from up here if we are truly learning from each experience and rising to new levels. The problems of yesterday should be easier now that we’ve learned from them. They might come back every now and then, but they should get smaller as we progress, because we know how to handle them and aren’t intimidated by those old demons any more.
That doesn't mean that I'm okay with anything that happens, or that I have a "whatever" attitude toward life. I still have plenty of questions. I still wonder what good some things do, or if it really took quite that much to get me where I am, or where I need to be. I ask "why" more than is probably good for my faith or my mental well being. But I also realize that there are opportunities in every situation, no matter how small. I'm determined to persevere. I'm determined to rise above circumstance and the things that threaten to drag me down. I refuse to be defeated. Jesus died so we could have and enjoy life, and I'm claiming that promise for my life, every day, no matter what the circumstances. Because there is something to enjoy in each and every day, and we can claim it. It all starts with the small things. Never despise them. They build up to the big things, to the ascension that brings us to that higher ground above our trials and tribulations.
In closing, I’d like to say thank you, Lord, for a word in season. I needed it and hope sharing it here helps others to put their own trials into perspective. But about that lightening bolt. Okay, I got it pretty quick. Now let’s leave blowing stuff up to the sci-fi and fantasy books and movies, okay?
That’s all today. Thanks for hanging in there with me! Have a happy Friday tomorrow and a good weekend.