The last roller coaster I rode was “The Mummy” at Universal Studios. That one did me in. Start, stop. Go backwards, race up to the clouds then plummet to earth. Race around the track’s 45 degree angles. No thanks. I’m through. My body and my vertigo clearly have deemed roller coasters off limits for me.
Close a big deal at work? You’re at the peak. Mess up a presentation? Uh-oh, now you’re racing down the track to the bottom. Your child made a good grade on his math test? Back up we go! But then he clobbered some kid on the playground? Now we’re stuck in the first car plummeting back to the ground.
You’re in the roller coaster, chugging away to get to the top of the tracks. We finally make it and we sit perched on the top of the ride, looking downward at all the poor people who aren’t having as much fun as we are.
Then before we know it, the car we are riding in tips the other way and in seconds flat we can be headed towards the bottom of life – divorce, alcoholism, fraud, infidelity, abuse, death.
I don’t ride roller coasters anymore. I don’t like that feeling (plus I don’t want to ever see my face after the “Scream Cam” captures me going 90 miles an hour around a hairpin turn). But it’s hard not to get caught in riding the roller coaster emotions of life. At times it seems near impossible.
Paul writes in his letter to the church at Philippi, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)
So what’s the secret to getting off the emotional roller coaster? Paul knew his joy did not come from his circumstances. His joy was made complete through his faith in Jesus. In other words he quit letting his emotions guide him – he kept his focus on Jesus which enabled him to have joy in any and every circumstance, no matter how horrible his situation was. He was beaten, imprisoned, starved. But he didn’t complain about it – he sang songs of worship and praised his Savior. He had real, inexplicable joy in the worst of situations.
Get off the roller coaster and step onto the safety of the loading deck. Stop letting your emotions dictate where your joy comes from or squashing your joy altogether. Inexplicable joy abounding from any situation only comes from a true relationship with Jesus. He wants to keep you off that ride – will you let Him?