I used to love riding roller coasters. The thrill of the unexpected turn. The feel of your stomach as you plummet downhill at unimaginable speeds. The way your first thought as the ride screeches to a halt is, ‘Let’s do that again!’
Roller coasters used to be my friend. But we’re not on great terms anymore. My back hurts after the ride. My anxiety shoots through the roof on those turns. And quite frankly, my bladder isn’t what it used to be!
It’s not just my body, though. Roller coasters have just lost their thrill for me. I don’t like being out of control, and if there is one thing you have zero of on a roller coaster, it’s control. The ride has all the control; all you can do is hold on for dear life.
The older I get, the more I feel like life is like one big, never-ending roller coaster. The turns you never expected. The dips and drops you could have never predicted. Upside down and all around, life leaves you stressed and anxious, often feeling as though you can never get yourself together.
The good and bad news with this scenario is that it’s true: life can often feel out of control. But we don’t have to let that out-of-control life control us. Yes, we want to have control. Yes, we want to know what’s coming. But we can’t. Here’s the thing—we can’t control the roller coaster's speed or where it’s headed next, but we can control where our eyes are fixed as we ride. We can control our response to the roller coaster of life.
We can fix our eyes on our good Father who goes before us, and we don’t need to fear. We can fix our eyes on the God who leads us into righteousness and restores our souls. We can fix our eyes on His truths, follow His Word, listen to the Spirit, grab His hand, and keep walking on together.
A helpful tool in getting it together even when life feels like one big out-of-control roller coaster is to examine your current realities. On top of a hard life, we often look around at everyone else’s life, wondering how they can seemingly have it all together. We wonder how they never forget to check on their friend in a crisis. We wonder how they seem to drink water all day, count their macros, and get in those 10k steps a day while we are still trying to find the expensive water bottle we purchased in hopes of getting in all the water we need. We wonder how they can be on every field trip when we can barely remember to send in the money for the field trip. We wonder how they finish every Bible study and read every new book on faith while we're doing well to get through a daily devotion before the kids turn the house upside down.
The truth is, we look at other people’s lives and compare them to our own, which isn’t fair and doesn’t even make sense—because we’re living completely different lives! The reason that your friend can go on all the field trips is because she is a stay-at-home parent, and her schedule allows it. The reason that your friend gets all her steps in, drinks all the water, and counts all her food macros is because she works with a personal trainer who helps her with these systems. The reason your friend has so many journals accumulated is because that’s a way that she connects to God, and frankly, it’s different than how you connect to God.
Comparing our lives to everyone else leaves us feeling empty and out of control. Something within us cries, “Why can’t I get it together?” But we don’t have to keep getting whipped around on that ride. When we acknowledge and assess our current realities (and also make a plan to reevaluate them continually as they change over time), we are getting it together. Getting it together is a continual process, and just like any other process, the more you do it, the better you get—and the more you trust God and listen to His Spirit in the process!
To understand and assess your current reality, step off the roller coaster and think about where God has you right now. A helpful tool is the word PONDER. Think through your:
Past and present hurts – I am hurting from …
Obligations – I said that I would …
Needs – I need _____ for my health
Desires – I want to do/be …
Expectations – I should …
Responsibilities – I have to …
Examining the six areas of life that make up your current reality changes everything about how you ride this roller coaster of life. There are seasons in life where your responsibilities are heavier and take up more space in your life. There are also seasons where your obligations need to be thinned out. What are all the things you have said “yes” to? Can you remove any of those from your plate to help your life feel more manageable? Can you make more space for the things God has called you to or gifted you to do?
Getting it together is having the right response to your current reality. Where you are is not a mistake. The people and circumstances that surround you didn’t just materialize. God has a beautiful plan and a purpose for you in your current reality. But in order to see this, you must have a good understanding of what makes up your daily life. Our realities are so complex because we are complex people. Some of these areas feel heavier than others in your current season of life. The roller coaster speeds up and slows down. As you grow and change and move through different seasons of life, understanding your new reality will be important so you can respond rightly to the new reality God has for you.
Your current circumstances are uniquely yours and probably vastly different from mine. That’s why it’s important to understand what your life looks like today. And remember, as you zoom forward on the roller coaster of life, don’t look around at everyone else to decide how you’re supposed to have your life together. Our circumstances are different, but our God is the same. Fix your eyes straight ahead on Him, the Maker and Creator of you and your story, and trust Him with your ride.
Jamie Ivey is the creator and host of the popular podcast The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, a central gathering place for talking about life and Jesus. Jamie is an author who shares gospel truths with raw, redemptive stories from her life. She loves to deliver God-empowering messages to women. Jamie and her husband, Aaron, live in Austin, Texas, with their four teenagers and two dogs.