Hold on or be held?

I love rollercoasters. The rush of the wind past my face, the adrenaline pulsing through my veins, the elated laughter (and terrified shrieking)…I can’t get enough!

But there is a vitally important moment in the life a rollercoaster rider: the moment you decide to reach over your head, pull down the overhead harness, and snap it into place. In this moment, you either place full trust in the person who engineered and designed the rollercoaster, or you trust in your grip strength to keep you in your seat through the twists and turns.


How long would it be before your white knuckled fists tired out? Before the rollercoaster became little more than a death trap? It would be terrifying, wouldn't it?! Fear would reign.

While writing to his brothers and sisters in Christ, James encourages them (and us) to be patient in suffering. In the midst of this conversation, he provides the how:

“You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” – James 5:8

Establish your hearts. Strengthen your hearts. Take heart. Fix firmly your hearts. Set fast your hearts.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, usually when this phrase is used, it speaks of God strengthening our hearts. Of Him providing the sustenance we so desperately need in the midst of suffering.

Much like the moment we strap in to the rollercoaster, placing full faith in the power of the harness to keep us still and safe in the midst of unbelievable drops and twists and turns, when we establish our hearts in the One who created us, we are held still and eternally safe in the midst of life’s drops and twists and turns. 

Our steadiness is not dependent on our ability to hold on. Because of Jesus, our response in suffering doesn't have to be to hunker down and get through tragedy and sorrow in isolation. 

Rather we are able to reach out to the God who knows the next turn, who holds us close to His heart, and whispers, “I’m here. I have you. You are mine. No one can pluck you from my hand, or take you out of my sight.” 

As we establish our hearts in Him, not in our own willpower to survive, we receive sustenance and hope and perseverance to go on. 

And as we experience His faithfulness and presence and His comfort through our brothers and sisters in Christ, we rejoice in the fact that He is coming again. We live in a broken world, yes, but one that will one be fully redeemed. One day pain and sin and death will be no more, and oh what a day that will be!

Until then, we reach up and buckle in, trusting in the designer and engineer of all of creation, taking comfort that He who holds us will never fail and looking toward the day when all is made new. It's not about holding on. It's about being held.

What an incredible God we serve.

See you Sunday!

Miry Mud & Muck

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” – James 4:8

Do you ever get stuck in sin? Psalm 40 describes a slimy pit, with mud and muck and mire…a pit that is inescapable on our own…a pit that we just slip and slide and fall around in until we wear ourselves out, filthy and exhausted from our efforts.

Our broken, human, sin-filled hearts gravitate toward death apart from Jesus. But we weren’t made for death; we were made for life! As followers of Christ, we have been redeemed, washed, sanctified, and pulled out of the miry muck and mud. And yet, in our humanity, our hearts wander. They do. It is a part of our struggle this side of heaven. But we aren’t left in our wandering. We aren’t left in our muddy, self-made pit to hopelessly exhaust ourselves.  Like the father of the prodigal son, our Father stands ready to forgive, embrace, and love us back to life. 

Our Father knew we would still wander and get muddy at times, so He graciously gave us an escape plan in James 4:

  1. Submit to God.
  2. Resist the devil, and he flees.
  3. Draw near to God, and He draws near to you.
  4. Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts.
  5. Weep over your sin, and humble yourself.
  6. Then He exalts you. He lifts up your head. He embraces you.

It’s simple, but it isn’t easy.  Jesus trudged through the mud, remained clean, died on a cross, and rose again, so we wouldn't have to remain stuck in the mud. Jesus does the heavy lifting, the rescuing, and the exalting, but we do have to submit, draw near, and be humble.  And we are often highly self-sufficient, idolatrous, and prideful, so our feet get stuck in the mud!

C.S. Lewis wrote, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

We weren't made for the mud, friends. Let's not make mud pies while paradise awaits. We were made for more.

See you Sunday!