I recently watched a video of Mark Lowry recounting his experience of a tornado. It’s well worth the watch and will bring a smile to your face. In the video, he explained that he was living on his houseboat and was awakened one evening after hearing a freight train come down the lake (obviously a tornado). He looked out the window and saw the extensive damage to the neighboring piers. So, he went to his radio and called his neighbors. He asked if they were okay. Their response was “We’re upside down; but we’re okay.”
That has been the story of 2020: We are upside down, but we are okay. We have struggled this year, but we are okay. We are tired, but we are okay. As I have thought about this idea, I think it is important to remember that we are okay not because of anything we can do, but because God has taken care of all things. He is sovereign and this year has allowed us to demonstrate a greater faith in our Lord Jesus.
Yes, being upside down is uncomfortable and stressful; it reveals our weak points. We are reminded of the hard (but honest) truth that we are not done yet. We are not done being molded and shaped into the image of our Lord Jesus, though we are firmly in his hands. Think of Paul’s words to the Philippians: Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. (13) Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, (14) I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3.12-14).
Paul’s goal was to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death (11) assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead (Phil. 3.10-11). Paul kept pursing Jesus even after having been saved. He continued to pursue Jesus despite the difficulty he experienced. He kept striving after Jesus because he had been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
Like Paul, we too have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. We are secure, despite our difficulties and uncertainties. I’m not sure about you, but I relate to Mark’s neighbors: “We’re upside down; but we’re okay.” What about you? Are you upside down? Are you feeling the pressure and the heat? If you’re upside down, remember, the game is not over yet. Paul understood that.
We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; (9) we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4.8-9).
Take heart, friend! Keep pressing on. You’re okay.
Here for you,
When I was learning to ride a bicycle, I became well-acquainted with two of the many trees we had in our backyard. I would be pedaling along fine, but on at least two occasions, a tree jumped in front of me. In a moment of panic, I forgot that I could turn away and avoid the tree all together…or better yet, I could use the brakes. On the two occasions that I ran into the trees, my parents told me to get up and try again—even if I thought I was hurt (I did not bleed or break anything). I would get up and get back on the bike. Eventually, I did learn how to ride the bike and I enjoyed it.
As I have thought about this story over the last few days, I have been reminded that failure is okay. Pleasant? No. Okay? Yes. Truth is, failure is a part of life and it requires each person to respond to it. Often you cannot choose to fail (it often just happens), but you can choose how you will respond to failure.
For me, I choose to redefine the win. I ask: What’s the victory in this? Let us use a math test I took in high school (math and science were not my strong suits). In my junior and senior math classes, I had a series of exams and quizzes that were less than favorable. I was ready to give up and just let it be whatever it might have been. However, instead of focusing on the apparent failures, I began to look at the good. I may have only gotten 2 out of 20 right on an exam, but I did not get them all wrong. So I took my victory.
The encouragement was enough to get me through the two years of math (and I somehow passed). Redefining the win is vital. Failure does not mean that the game is over. In fact, the game is only over when you choose to not get back up. Unfortunately, many are told that failure is bad and should be avoided at all costs. But the truth is God works even in the midst of our failures to reveal himself to us, and to prepare us. He also reminds us that he is the God of redemption.
Friend, don’t shy away from the tree (Don’t go looking for the tree either. But when the tree is there, don’t shy away from it). Remember, failure can be a wonderful time of growth. So, get back up. Brush the dirt off. And get back on the bike. You are not done yet. Take the lesson you learned from the failure and press on. Eventually, you’ll get it right.
On the Journey & Rooting For You,