The Rock and the Roller Coaster
by Jason Overman
I like roller coasters, but I like rocks better.
Every now and then (admittedly less often as the years pass) I find myself getting on a roller coaster to be lifted and plunged, tossed and turned. It’s thrilling. Scary — but safe-scary. I am buckled in tight, riding on a short, predictable track, then the slow climb up and up and that momentary rush that leaves you breathless. It’s fun!
More often these days, I find myself on my favorite rock — more like a boulder — that looks out over a creek snaking through the woods not far from my house. I am content to just sit on that cool, solid, unmovable slab and look at creation, listen to it, read my Bible, and pray to the Lord of all. It’s thrilling in its own sure, quiet way.
Life is kind of like a roller coaster, only longer, less secure, and much less certain. “Fun” doesn’t quite get it. Such a ride as life requires a rock, or rather, The Rock.
This is especially true when we face insecurity, something all of us struggle with to some extent. Life’s uncertainties and unknowns are worrisome enough, and the known of everyday experience only adds to our anxiety. Fearful feelings are normal among human beings because we are not in full control. We know this, despite what we may project to those around us. Too often we just bury our unease deep down.
Even a popular Bible hero like David experienced intense insecurity at times. But two things make David stand out as an example to us: his public declarations of it and his dependence on God. The beloved Psalm 71 is an excellent example of this.
“In you, O Lord, I put my trust,” David begins earnestly, setting his priorities at the start (v. 1). We do not know yet who or what has David feeling so insecure. All we know is that he’s looking for deliverance, escape, and salvation and that he cannot obtain them by his own means. On this uncertain and fearful occasion, David turns to God: “For You are my rock and my fortress” (v. 3).
David then reveals, in the most general terms, the enemies — the cruel and wicked — who would overwhelm him and take his life. To these threats and feelings of vulnerability David says, “I will go in the strength of the Lord” (v. 16). In the Lord God David finds his help and comfort from trouble.
For us it is a blessing that David’s foes go unnamed, unidentified, because we can name and identify them ourselves. We know them well, and maybe our troubles and fears are not so very different than David’s own.
But insecurity is not always just in response to external factors beyond our control. A great many of us need look no further than our own hearts and minds to discover the source of our doubts and fears. Many suffer from low self-esteem and depression, perhaps rooted in troubling events of childhood. When we, as a result of our wounds, become further victimized by our own self-loathing and worthlessness, we recall that David prays to the One who created us in His own image, who redeems us at great cost to Himself. We remember that He treasures us; we are valuable to Him even when we are not valuable to ourselves. We can rest on the Rock when the winds of insecurity and uncertainty blow within and without us. We can depend on God who loved and loves us.
David ends his psalm in praise to the Lord God who has, and is, and will yet deliver him, and us, by confounding those who would seek our hurt (vv. 22-24). Whatever our fears, whatever our insecurities, we can believe that. And like David, let our prayers be out loud to one another, a confession to the Rock upon whom our roller coaster life is anchored. In Him we trust.
Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.