Joy at the End of the Rope

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My least favorite thing in all the world is rappelling.

My deep dislike probably has something to do with the fact that I once agreed to strap on a harness and soon found myself hanging upside down from a small cliff, held up by only a few pieces of rope and metal. That brief moment of suspension was more than enough for me. No more carabiners, climbing walls, or Swiss seats for me, thank you.

I’ll keep my feet on the ground where it’s nice and solid.

I tend to approach the rest of life in the same way. Only invest in the sure things. Don’t take too much risk. Don’t lean out over the edge too far. Don’t risk loving if you might get hurt. Don’t risk failing if you might not succeed.

Apparently, God has other plans for me.


It has always seemed so feathery, so unhinged from reality. I embraced it as something valuable and necessary to my relationship to God–for “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

But still, faith always seemed like something slippery and hard to define, intangible as a cloud, transparent as a window pane. I knew it was more than illogical hoping or wishful thinking…but I didn’t know how solid faith could be.

When we grow up, life is often harder than we thought it was going to be–but hard realities make believing the truth more precious than ever.

Adulthood has bared my heart to a slew of new fears and hurts and possibilities and people to love. It has hurt. Each time I face a fear, part of me has to die as I lay myself down at Jesus’ feet again. Every time I step out and risk loving something or someone that may not ever love me in return, my faith muscles strain.

“Are You sure Lord?” I whisper. “Is loving really worth it?” And in the ache of loss or the tension of waiting, something deep and powerful visits me. As long as I hold on, as long as I believe that love is worth the cost, as long as I cling to Him above all as worth every ounce of this struggle, a strange filling comes. 

Maybe it is that when every firm thing is stripped away but the Lord, faith becomes a foothold. It is becoming my lifeline to the most solid thing I know.

Faith is clinging to an unseen reality. Faith is having the eyes to see that maybe the visible is the uncertain thing and the invisible thing is the most secure. I often put my trust in people to satisfy me, or in circumstances to fulfill me, or in feelings to comfort me. But no person, no situation, no emotion can offer security. The only safety is being tied to God.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”

 – 1 Peter 4:12-14, NASB, emphasis mine –

When life is difficult, we see how great God’s sufficiency must be. If we thought grace was great when we were children and life seemed easier, what about now?

How deep must God’s peace be if it will calm such heavy doubts and fears? How much sufficiency must He have for His children, if mortal hearts can break so much for the pains of this world? How much grace must there be if it is to run over when we are so empty?

It is easy for me to believe when life is easy. But that is not really faith, is it?

There are times in life when truth is a nice, gentle, steady thing. Other times, it is absolutely the only thing left to hold on to. When is truth more precious? When it is easy and cliché and powerless? Or when God is the one immovable thing in a life of unceasing turbulence?

This past week, I was listening to an audio recording of “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. Before the war, Corrie loved God. She believed in His goodness. She was comforted by His word.

But Hitler’s war came and Corrie’s faithfulness brought her down into a Nazi prison camp. Unspeakable horrors, unimaginable shame, pain that seemed to never end–these circumstances were the teachers that changed Corrie.

God’s provision wasn’t merely a nice sounding, Sunday School idea any more. It was rock-solid reality–the only reality that she could count on. And faith became real to Corrie, because it was all she had to hang on to.

As I get older, life expands for me. In the past few years, I have felt depths of joy and pain that I never dreamed existed–and I am glad for both. The past few years have been speckled with doubts and battles to trust God, and over and over again entrusting my life into His hands. Real life seems to lend itself well to such lessons, doesn’t it?

It’s like my dread of rappelling. 

In life, I can totter on the edge of living. Or I can lean back trust the ropes–trust the Lord who loves me–to carry me through the challenges life always brings.

Stepping over the edge can be incredibly hard. But, trust me. It is also incredibly worth it.

There is joy in hanging on to the end of a rope, if God is at the other end.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

– 1 Peter 5:6-11, ESV –


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