Sometimes life is a struggle, and it seems like we are pedalling hard uphill in the lowest gear, but hardly moving at all; and sometimes it’s just freewheeling all the way as every button we press seems to make something happen, and everything we do works the first time. It can seem like the same applies in our spiritual lives: one day the heavens seem like brass, God is busy somewhere else and hasn’t got time for us, and in the flesh seems to be winning on every front in its war against the spirit; whereas on another day you sense the presence of God with you in an almost tangible way, you see Him sovereignly sort out a mess in your life, or you see someone healed or lead them to the Lord. We all want every day to be like this, and there can be a temptation to think we are “getting something wrong” if it isn’t happening.
The accuser is always looking for a place where his lies can stick, because this is not the reality at all. We are promised peace with persecutions, and His presence – whether we feel it or not – in adversity (Isaiah 43:2). Pauls tells the Corinthians that he “dies daily” and ”stands in jeopardy every hour.” (1 Cor 15: 31-31) We’ve signed up to a training camp, not a holiday camp. If life seems to be a struggle our words of comfort are not ”There, there; it will all get better soon,” but “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13); and that we can “count it all joy” when life is difficult because “the testing of (our) faith produces patience” (James 1: 3).
In His grace God does give us wonderful “downhill days,” because He knows that we need them; and there are times when do indeed reap in joy after sowing in tears (Psalm 126:5). But when Jeremiah asks why things are so hard, the Lord answers:
“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you,
Then how can you contend with horses?
And if in the land of peace,
In which you trusted, they wearied you,
Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)
Having said that, of course not many of us relish the prospect of the uphill sections of the journey. As we fly downhill with the wind in our faces we don’t say: “Hooray! There’s a steep climb ahead!” So what is God’s perspective? His ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts. He doesn’t measure how far we have come or how fast we are going, or even how high we have climbed. And it is God who gives the increase, not our own efforts, so we cannot take the credit for any fruit that we may have borne.
What matters most to our Father, and in fact what matters most to us as well, is this: that we stay upright. We particularly need to remember this when it seems that the going is easy, because it’s on the downhill runs that the falls can be most painful.
“For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will see His face.” (Psalm 11:7)
Next time: off-road.