How strong is your amusement-park faith? Mine ended at the mammoth roller coaster. I’d go on any ride except that one. Until our friend, Ed increased my faith in that ride.
“I’m heading to the roller coaster,” he announced.
“Not me. I won’t go on that ride,” I balked. “That’s where I draw the line. I’m too afraid that the car I’m in will be hurled off the tracks. And catapult me into the air.”
“That’s the safest ride in the park,” Ed declared.
His assessment gave me the confidence I needed to join him. Not because of the way he stated the fact. But because of his credentials. For decades Ed had worked for a large city as their inspector of bridges and other structures.
At the end of my first ride, my fingers had to be pried off the lap bar. By my fifth ride I’d gone from terrified to thrilled. My faith in the ride increased, helping me to relax and enjoy the ride. I even joined the ranks of the brave hand-raisers. My arms waved in the air as the car whipped me up, down, and around the tracks.
Life can feel like a roller coaster. Especially when raising a child with mental illness (MI). Our journey surely wouldn’t be included on the list of fun rides at a theme park. Yes, God fills our lives with blessings. But there’s no amusement in the MI trip. Faith is necessary. Our trial makes it painfully obvious that trusting God is a daily process. That’s how we survive.
We put our trust in the Designer of the track we’re on. That step in faith enables us to relax in His care. Our eyes are opened to see His faithfulness. Then we’re able to fling our hands in the air as we praise Him for His power and love.
The thing about faith is that it comes in all amounts. Some days we might have strong and abundant faith in God. Other days it may be harder to relax in His care. Pressures grow. Stress increases. Faith weakens. How do we handle those faith-stretching times in our lives?
Early on in my journey with our son’s MI, it was as if I’d been trust onto the ride of terror. There were unexpected dips and turns. Chris had a break from reality and had to be hospitalized. Thankfully, he quickly became stabilized. Homeschool was needed. Thankfully, God provided instructors who could teach Chris’s college-level AP courses. Chris’s body chemistry changed, triggering another psychotic episode. Thankfully, there were other medications available which successfully treated him.
The more I rode the MI rollercoaster, the more my confidence grew. With each crisis came God’s provision.
There have been periods when I’ve had breaks from the MI rollercoaster. Then, suddenly, I’d realize I had been placed back on the ride. I’d sense the subtle clues. Chris’s behavior would change slightly. The sparkle in his eyes would fade. Tell-tale puffiness around his eyes would reveal secret torment. His conversations would be reduced to grunts.
Those were times which tested my faith. Times when I echoed the apostles’ request to, “Lord, Increase my (our) faith”! (Luke 17:5).
The book of Hebrews became my go-to place to shop for greater faith. It reminded me that I’m, “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).” I’d picture giants of faith mentioned in Hebrews eleven cheering me on. I’d hear Noah, Jacob, Abraham, and Moses yelling, “Hang in there, Vicki. God is with you. He’s still in control.”
Those men of great faith were human, like me. How did they keep the faith and even abound in faith? What was their secret? I think it’s found in Hebrews 12:1-3
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
That passage in Hebrews begins with the challenge to throw off what hinders and entangles us. We’re burdened by our own thoughts and emotions. Worry and fear can weigh us down. Making it difficult to continue running our race. Our nurturing thoughts drive us to solve every problem. Some situations regarding our child’s MI can only be handled by treatment or therapists. And some need God’s intervention alone. In those cases our need to control the situation can block our path to complete trust in God. So we wonder if God’s still in control.
Verse one assures us that God is still in control of our lives. This race we run has been ‘marked out for us.’ It is a God-appointed path.
So how do we run? Our Trainer has provided instructions in verses one through three. We’re to run with perseverance having our eyes fixed on Jesus, while considering Him. As we reflect on all that He is and all that He’s done, our faith increases. The One who conquered death is on the throne. He’s alive and able! He’s the Source of all the inner strength we need.
We can be confident that we’ll be counted among those heroes of faith, “… whose weakness was turned to strength (Hebrews 11:34).”
We need not quiver in fear like Christ’s disciples who cried, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown! (Matthew 8:25).” Jesus will calm the storms in our lives.
We can be like the centurion who told Jesus, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed (Matthew 8:8)”. We can have that same faith because we trust in the same God.
Clearly life is not a roller coaster. We don’t need to simply brace ourselves or buckle up. Our preparation involves wearing godly accessories. No outfit is complete without God’s shield a faith protecting our heart.
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).”
Listen to Steve Green’s song: “Find Us Faithful” and imagine that great cloud of witnesses cheering you on.