Faith and the Roller Coaster: 3 Ways to Feel Grounded in your Faith

Kelli Penn, Director of Community and Culture
So what do you do when you’ve made a big faith leap and the roller coaster is giving you whiplash and your faith is billowing around your head like hair caught in a windstorm? As a coasterphobe, I am no expert, but here are a few lessons I have learned from my time on the scream machine ….
 
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Kelli Penn has had the absolute pleasure of discipling children and those who lead them for over thirty years through her roles as teacher, staff developer, children's ministry director, elementary principal, mother, and grandmother. For the last seventeen years, she has had the blessing of serving the children of Landmark Christian School where she currently serves as the Director of Community and Culture (or Landmark fairy godmother as one student described her.)
 
“I feel like I have spiritual Tourette’s Syndrome,” the text started. 
 
“I have this supernatural peace with random moments of panic.” 
 
I so understood exactly what she meant. Another friend and I had spent several hours praying and seeking the Lord with her a few days earlier as she wrestled with the Lord over a decision that would require her to take a huge leap of faith. The Lord met us. The way seemed clear. She jumped. The first day was peace-filled ... glorious actually ….. as the burden of the wrestling lifted with the beauty of a decision made. Excitement filled the air at how God was going to move in huge ways, and faith sky-rocketed. Then it happened ….. the circumstances looked worse and the doubts flooded in like a torrent. Panic was close behind. What was she thinking?
 
Often on my journey with the Lord, I have wrestled with the Lord, stepped out in faith, came to peace, and then it was like things got worse- the roller coaster sped up heading downward and veering like it was going to jump track with me screaming … “but I thought I heard” … and the enemy laughing and yelling logic and condemnation. Maybe you know the drill. One minute he is scoffing at your illogical “faith” move (“How could you be so dumb and so out of touch with reality and responsibility?”), and the next minute he is judging you for not really having faith (“Oh, yeah, you really are a big faith walker. You are a hypocrite. You talk it to others but you can’t really live it.”) I don’t know why this tactic still surprises me and leaves me reeling in a panicky fog. Maybe it is because that condemning voice in my head sounds a lot like my own voice. 
 
I know God allowed this challenge in Scripture… called someone and then things got a lot worse… Joseph, Moses, David. I know from experience the ride has purpose ...faith stretching, defining your real motivation, promoting intimacy and eye-lock with Him, perseverance. But I do have to be honest … I have never liked roller coasters. They scare me. I rarely choose to ride one without being greatly coaxed. But I LOVE intimacy with Him. I LOVE all I learn about Him when I can’t actually define the path myself or find my own legs. I LOVE that He loves me too much not to coax me outside myself to feats of faith I would never choose on my own. I LOVE how He loves. 
 
So what do you do when you’ve made a big faith leap and the roller coaster is giving you whiplash and your faith is billowing around your head like hair caught in a windstorm? As a coasterphobe, I am no expert, but here are a few lessons I have learned from my time on the scream machine ….

1. Embrace step by step intimacy and trust- The prayer may sound something like this, “OK, Lord, I am really straining to hear and step in obedience. Protect me from myself and from deception. Tell me the next step …. just one step. Give me strength and courage to take that one step. I will then come to you and trust you for the next step Clean up what I mess up.I am trusting you..”

2. Cling to the anchor of His character (and not your own)
When the coaster starts to careen, my thoughts seem to turn with all their might to my performance. “What did I just do? Why did I do this? What will become of me? How will I look to everyone else? How can I stop this ride (and this panic) as quickly as possible? How am I going to fix this?” Trying to grab hold of my performance when I am free falling from a faith leap reminds me of one time as a child when I was on a merry-go-round being pushed by very big boys. I could feel my feet slipping and my grip loosening. I tried to grab at everything bolted down I could find as my grip slipped and I was flung through the air and to the ground. Grabbing for my performance is kind of like that. It might hold me for a minute, but eventually, my plan would be as effective as using a dental tool to do open heart surgery- ineffective at best, tragic at worst. I need a sure thing, an anchor that holds.
  • I Corinthians 1:30- “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption.”
HE is that anchor. He is my wisdom ( telling me what to do) and my righteousness (making sure I get it right) and my sanctification (perfecting and setting me apart in the process) and my redemption (cleaning up what I mess up). And the beautiful thing is if my heart is turned toward Him, truly turned, I cannot miss Him. For even if I make a wrong decision, He will turn it for my good. It might be a bit of a journey, but He will be there for that, too. Perk alert again … the intimacy on that journey is so very sweet (actually intoxicating).

3. Lean on the beauty of the Body
By nature, I am a bit of a Lone Ranger. If I am completely honest, there is a good bit of pride in that. I may try to make it sound noble by saying I don’t want to bother people, but the real truth is I often think I know best and don’t need help, I don’t want to risk looking weak, or I fear my weakness will lead to a rejection. Take note of all the I’s in that sentence … pride. Yet the Lord made us a Body with different gifts on purpose. Satan is very good at deception. It isn’t too hard to deceive one person, especially one person who is on a roller coaster of emotions careening out of control. Ahh, but the Body… indwelled by the Spirit, listening to the Spirit, sitting with you in prayer, considering the Scripture ….. with you .. that united group is difficult to deceive. I am not talking about a religious group who wants to give you their opinions. I am talking about those Spirit-led folks who listen to Him for you and with you and love you enough to be honest.

  • Hebrew 10:24-25- ”and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Let’s be honest. Faith often isn’t “logical” and often calls us to risk. The Kingdom we are called to is an upside-down Kingdom where it’s better to give than to receive, the least is considered the greatest, and the way to higher living is to go lower. Yet the reality of HIs closeness, His attention, His character, and His supernatural care through His Body as we step out in faith turns the roar of the roller coaster into a guided faith tour through the streets of His amazing love and grace. Sign me up for that ride!
  • Psalm 119:105- “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Take note that a lamp isn’t a spotlight illuminating the entire plan all at once. This lamp means moment by moment, up close and personal, locking eyes with the One Who is Leading … total dependance.. Perk alert ... the intimacy experienced in that  dependency is just without equal.      
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