A roller coaster ride? Yes. The top of the hill is the place where the car slows down and you get to see the surrounding area. It’s a vast conglomeration of buildings, streets, parking lots, and people. It appears to be organized and functional. That’s because you’re at the top. You have a clear view. Then what happens? The car slowly inches forward to the slope of the car’s downward travel path. You tense up. You may close your eyes. You will probably scream. Sometimes you may go with your hands and arms pointed straight up to the sky. That is NOT me.
Then the rush comes. The view from the top is skewed. It doesn’t seem organized and functional any more. You’re maybe even frightened. You can’t wait for the bottom of the hill to come. You think it’s over. But you’re wrong. The same cycle goes on a few more times. Maybe this time there is a section of the coaster that puts you into a spin. You spin and spin and spin. Lastly, you come to the end. The car slows down. You breathe a sigh of relief. You wipe the tears from your eyes. You smile for the camera. You step out only to realize your steps are shaky. You’ve been changed.
There’s a song recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys called “Life is Like a Mountain Railway”. I’ll be short with the lyrics. But they relate.
Life is like a mountain railway,
With an engineer that’s brave,
We must make this run successful,
From the cradle to grave.
The chorus is this:
Blessed Savior, thou will guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore,
Where the angels wait to join us,
In the great forevermore.
There’s a Book in the Bible that parallels this theme. It’s found in the Book of Ruth. The entire story can be found in Ruth 1: 1-22.
In Chapter 1, we can get a closer look into the choices and decisions of one family to do what was right in their own eyes. This family found great suffering and difficulty that lead to important, even critical, decisions.
The very first thing we learn in Chapter 1 is that there was a famine in the land. Food is scarce. This is “The First Tragedy”. These were the people of Bethlehem in Judah. The word Bethlehem means “house of bread”. A great irony, isn’t it? Bread was the main source of nutrition for the people. We find that Elimelek, the head of one family living in Bethlehem made a choice. That choice was to leave Bethlehem and go live where there was food to eat. That was in Moab about 50 miles away. This land was known as an area where the people worshiped other gods and were immoral. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death.”
The next “roller coaster hill” approaches and you descend into Grief. This is “The Second Tragedy”. Grief came when the decision chosen was to move. Elimelek chose reason over trust. Trust in the Lord to provide. Things just seemed to go from bad to worse. They went their own way.
The second decision was “To Remain Away from the Lord” and to trust their own understandings. To live in a land that served other gods and did not serve the Lord Almighty.
And finally, the third choice was made, “Returning to the Lord”. The story ends with the return of Naomi and Ruth to Bethlehem in Judah. Naomi lost everything. She lost her two sons. One of her daughters in law left her to go back to Moab. Life was hard. But now she returns with her Moabite daughter in law, Ruth, to Bethlehem in Judah. Her home. Naomi’s decision to return home identifies God’s amazing grace. Naomi is not alone and empty. She had Ruth who also returned so that she could care for Naomi.
Chapter 1 ends like this in verse 22, “So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.” The story of Ruth goes from Famine to Grace. God’s grace touches Naomi’s life.
This end reminds me of pulling finally into the roller coaster station as the ride has come to an end. You breathe a sigh of relief. You are home. There is no more fear. No more grief that you chose to ride. What is left is peace and freedom as you disembark from the ride.
Let me encourage you today that there is hope in suffering. God desires that you return to Him. You can restart with the Lord. You can have rest and peace and hope in Jesus Christ. The road is not easy, and it will require that you leave some things behind. But I know that the Lord is your co-pilot. He promises to never leave you, never forsake you. He wants to meet your every need. Don’t ride the “coaster of life” without a “riding partner”. His name is Jesus. Will you respond by returning to the Lord today? If you have never met your “riding partner”, you can right now. Pray and ask Jesus to come into your life. Your sins are forgiven but you must ask Him to forgive you and then repent. Choices that you can make. If you call on the Name of Jesus, He will hear you and forgive you. And you will have the hope that you desire. Will you make this choice today?
Dear friend, my prayer for you this week will be for God to enlighten you to understand that He is with you and He is your everlasting hope.