There are basically two ways to ride a roller coaster. The first is to resist the ride. You can press your feet against the floorboard and arch your back. You can grip the handle bar so hard your knuckles turn white. You can tense your jaw, tighten your abdominal muscles, and scream bloody murder as you descend the precipitous drops and are flung around the death-defying turns.
Somewhere in my rather limited experience of roller coasters, I discovered a second approach. You can actually relax on a roller coaster. Really! You can loosen your grip on the bar, relax your jaw, legs and abdominal muscles. In fact, you can take a roller coaster ride in the same physical condition and mental state of a couch potato.
Obviously, your physical state will have no influence on the roller coaster. No matter how tense or relaxed you may be, the roller coaster will not alter its route one inch or adjust its speed one iota. Either way, you will be delivered to the platform on time and in one piece. You cannot control the ride, you can only control the rider.
In a manner of speaking, this illustrates the way faith operates in the life of the believer. Like a roller coaster, life often takes us on a wild ride at speeds we are not sure we can handle and around turns and down precipitous valleys that seem to spell certain disaster. But choosing to place my faith in God, I can relax. I can rest in the realization that no amount of resistance or anxiety on my part will alter the course, but that he will sustain and uphold me as I hurl down the track of life. There are times the course seems too steep, too fast, too scary, but I can trust that God has designed the course and will get me safely to the celestial platform in one piece. And in this confidence I can rest.
The idea is not that through a process of mental gymnastics I convince myself that life is nothing but a dream—a gentle stream along which I merrily row my boat. To the contrary, I have a moral responsibility to participate in, and to fully enjoy the ride as it really is. The wind screams through my hair and the g-forces flatten my face. The turns and descents are often unpredictable. I am jostled about. I take it as a roller coaster ride because that is what it is.
Yet taking if for what it is, does not demand that I fight the ride. I can relax in the confidence that God has laid out the course and will convey me home. To say it another way, I can choose to live by faith.
But if faith is not running from reality, neither is it mere psychological transference of natural anxieties onto a higher power—whatever he, she or it may be. Genuine faith does not rest on thin air, it banks on the promises of the living God of Scripture who never lies and who rules the universe with sovereign power.
Colossians 2:6 counsels the believer: “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.” We received Jesus by faith. We placed our full confidence in His provision for our sin and trusted Him to get us to a heaven we cannot see and could never attain in our own strength. We rested in His grace and trusted God’s power to save. We relied not on ourselves, but rested entirely upon Him (John 1:12; 6:28-29; Ephesians 2:8-9). This is how every true believer “received Christ Jesus as Lord.”
Colossians 2:6 calls believers to go on living in this same way. That is, we are to rely on God, not upon ourselves—to fully trust him through every circumstance of life—to rest unreservedly in the truth that he is working all things together for our everlasting good and for his eternal glory (Romans 8:28-29). It is in this God and on his promises that people of faith can rest, and should.
Are you taking the screaming, twisting, climbing, plunging roller coaster of life in a state of resting faith? Perhaps you find yourself anxiously trying to control the uncontrollable today. Remember, you cannot change the ride, you can only change the rider. Actually, you can’t even do that, but God can. He is able to give you the gift of faith so that you may receive Him as Lord. And once equipped with such transforming faith, He can empower you to relax on the roller coaster ride of life and teach you to enjoy that ride all the way to the celestial platform where rest will take on a whole new dimension in His eternal presence.
Dan Miller has served as the Senior Pastor of Eden Baptist Church since 1989. He graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in 1984 and his graduate degrees include the MA in history from Minnesota State University, MDiv and ThM from Central Baptist Theological Seminary and DMin from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Dan is married to Beth and the Lord has blessed them with four children: Ethan, Levi, Reed and Whitney.