This morning I had to face what I’d been dreading all weekend.
A bunch of guys from my church, from young and single to older and retired, gathered in a cozy mountain retreat this weekend to talk about grace.
Coming into the resort, I went down a gravel road that resembled the one near my grandmother’s old farm. The only difference is that it had a lot more gravel, hills that tested my little car’s ability to climb, and ditches that threatened to swallow me alive.
I couldn’t afford to screw up.
When it was to time to leave, one of my fellow retreat attendees was there when I tried to race my car up the nearly 90 degree incline in front of my cabin.
“You have a strategy?” he said.
“Nope,” I answered to keep from appearing rude and totally gripped by fear.
I’m not sure my act paid off.
At his suggestion, I managed to get the car out by rolling in reverse up a hill that was only 45 degrees.
Now I had to face the giant gravel-covered incline that looked like the hill on the first leg of the Scream Machine at Six Flags. So I prayed for God’s help, got a running start, and put it in first gear the whole way.
12 hours later, I saw the top of the hill. A week later I saw a real paved road that let me know civilization was close by.
Okay, it was really only a few minutes, but it seemed as long as the wait for service at the Social Security office.
We all face a bumpy ride in life sometimes. There are and always will be hills and valleys, ditches and drops, and days that seem like Christmas. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could know ahead of time what was ahead? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew you’d always arrive safely, your car would never break down, and that you’d never be stranded alone on the road?
Of course it would. And you can if you never go anywhere.
But since you probably do, you’ve got to deal with it. Since I was at a church retreat this weekend, I’m going to tell you what I learned.
Sometimes God allows storms into your life.
But it’s not for the reason you may think.
God allows storms not to punish you or make your life miserable. He doesn’t want to hurt or crush you. Here’s what He’s after: your heart. He wants your deepest affection, your allegiance, and your loyalty.
Just like I wanted to run from that harrowing hill, we run from God when life hurts. We blame God when it’s really a broken world that’s the cause. We run away when we should seek shelter in His arms. And we miss out on a blessing to sulk in our homemade cloud of misery.
You don’t need to punish yourself when you feel guilty. Confess it to God. Tell the person you offended. Ask forgiveness from both. God will grant it whether the other person will or not.
If it’s just life being cruel, God knows how you feel. Jesus came here and felt everything you have ever felt or ever will feel. So whine, complain, and cry to Him. After that, He’ll hug you.
And He’ll remind you that you belong to Him today, tomorrow, and forever.
Now go ahead and climb that scary hill. God won’t be your copilot. He’ll be the one driving.
Take that to heart.