• 6 November 2023

Chapter 7 – The Rollercoaster

To what may we compare fear, suffering and death? To a rollercoaster. This is not an image we find in the Bible, of course! But, like a rollercoaster, when we suffer it can feel like we are strapped in and unable to get out. At times nothing much is happening and then suddenly you are thrown around, upside down and sideways before it stops equally suddenly. Then the whole thing abruptly happens again. How do you feel when you get out? You are shaken up and your legs feel like rubber.

All of this has been my experience recently. Last week I started feeling unwell, then I developed a fever and by Sunday evening I had tightness in my chest. A few days later I was admitted to hospital either with coronavirus or some kind of heart problem. Various tests later and I am home, having had neither coronavirus nor a heart attack but some other unspecified illness.

The Psalmist writes, ‘I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken’ (Ps. 16:7–8).

When we are bewildered and in trouble and wonder where the rollercoaster is going, God gives us His counsel. When we feel lost and abandoned, God knows where we should go and shows us the right path. How does God counsel and advise us in difficulties? In many ways, but most of all through His Word, which teaches us in our hearts. Literally in the Hebrew the word means ‘my kidneys’ – our inmost being, our essence.

As we are helped and taught, our eyes go away from ourselves. In difficulties I find it easy to be self-absorbed. But our eyes must look up, not down, and look to Jesus. And as we look to Him through His Word we realise he is not someone to look at but someone who is with us – at our right hand.

If, in ancient Israel, you wanted someone to protect you, you would place a mighty armed warrior on your right side. That way you would be invulnerable. It’s the same with us. As the rollercoaster takes another lurch up or down, seated next to us is someone who ‘sticks closer than a brother’ (Prov. 18:24).

Being ill or suffering often involves being lonely. In the hospital I couldn’t leave the room. But in isolation we are never along for He is with us.

Some might be tempted to think that this train of thought is typical of a weak human being who needs an imaginary friend in distress. We may feel happy, but is He real?

The Psalmist helps us by writing:

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Ps. 16:9–11).

These verses were quoted by Peter in his Pentecost sermon to prove that Jesus was the Messiah who has come back from the dead. Ultimately the rollercoaster is terrifying because we know what’s waiting for us at the end – death. But Jesus has beaten death, He has risen back to life, and so will we. Our hope in fear, suffering and death is unshakable and founded on the historical fact of the resurrection.

As we get off the rollercoaster our legs may feel like jelly and, if left to ourselves, they will buckle and we will fall. But the glorious truth is that we are not left to ourselves because the Lord Jesus Christ is at our right hand. He takes us by the arm and steadies our weak knees. He has conquered death and He will bring us home to His right hand where there will be no more fear, suffering and death, only joy and eternal pleasures for evermore.

Excerpt from Hope in the face of suffering – 20 devotions for tough times by Jeremy Marshall

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