|Photo by Jeff from Denver 2005|
An arrow has no forward momentum unless the archer first draws the arrow backward. As a dancer, I learned long ago that to spring upward in a jump, there must first be a knee bend, known as a plie, lowering the center of gravity, and that the height of the jump corresponds to the depth of the plie. From their compressed position, the legs straighten and push against the floor, creating upward momentum.
In each case, the backward or downward movement stores energy which can be released to propel the arrow or the dancer in the opposite and desired direction, which might at first seem to be counterintuitive. Yet we see many examples of this in daily life.
In a kinetic sculpture of steel balls suspended from a frame, displacing the ball on one end backward and releasing it toward the others propels the most distant ball forward, and the cycle continues as that ball returns to its original position and the furthest ball moves backward, thanks to conservation of momentum.
Similar principles are at work in something as simple as a seesaw, or as complex as a rocket blasting into space. A seed must be planted deep in the earth before it can be transformed, shooting up to the skies as a tall plant (1 Corinthians 15:35-38). As natural as all this is in the physical world, we often lose sight of its spiritual application.
Because of the complex interaction of matter, space and time, nothing ever truly remains stationary. We either progress along our spiritual journey (Hebrews 12:1) or we backslide (Jeremiah 3:22; Hosea 11:7). Once we are born again (John 3:3-8) by trusting Jesus Christ as our Savior who died, was buried and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins (Romans 3:25) and to give us eternal life (John 3:16), we are secure in our salvation (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:39).
However, our relationship with Him is not static. Either we draw closer to and become more like Him (Isaiah 55:6; Romans 12:1--2), or we allow our sin to create distance from Him and to disrupt our fellowship (1 John 1:6-10). Thankfully, the same God of the mountains is God of the valleys (1 Kings 20:28), and He can use even our low points to draw us closer to Himself (Psalm 23). He never leaves nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5), and Jesus Himself is the Lily of the valleys (Song of Solomon 2:1), fragrant with mercy, grace and compassion even in our deepest pit.
The very act of salvation is impossible unless we have sunk into the depths of despair, realizing that we have sinned against Holy God (Romans 3:23; Matthew 9:13), that we deserve eternal punishment in hell (Romans 6:23), and that no good work we do could help us climb out of that pit and into Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9).
We cannot pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, nor can we use our own strength, merit or pride to save ourselves. Only when we come to the end of ourselves, realize that we are helpless and that we desperately need a Savior (Luke 18:13-14), will the Holy Spirit enter our heart and save us (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13).
Once that occurs, our position in Heaven is forever secure, for our inheritance is eternal life with Him there! He has even promised to elevate us to heavenly places with Him during our life on earth (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6). But until He brings us home (2 Corinthians 5:1-8) or the Rapture occurs (1 Corinthians 15:51-57), our earthly journey consists of twists and turns, forward and backward excursions, sometimes toward the summit, but often slipping a few steps down or even falling precipitously off a cliff.
But He is always there, catching us (Psalm 37:24; 91:11-12), mending and reshaping the broken pieces (Jeremiah 18:4-6), encouraging us to get back up, to retrace the steps of the wrong turn or to keep climbing with new resolve. In the valleys and missteps is where we realize anew how much we need Him, and how without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).
In our trials and even in our transgressions, He grows our faith in and reliance on Him, proves His faithfulness (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 89:8; Isaiah 25:1; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13; 1 John 1:9), molds us into His image (Philippians 3:10), and gives us compassion and experience to help others in similar valleys (Romans 8:28). Sometimes we need the quiet, reflection and restoration of the spiritual valley to prepare us for the next spiritual victory, as was the case with Elijah (1 Kings 19).
In the Psalms, David praised God for lifting him from the deep pit he had dug for himself through the devastating consequences of his sins (Psalm 9:15; 28:1; 30:3; 40:2). He recognized that God would not leave him in hell (Psalms 16:10; Acts 2:25-36), or allow him to die before his time, for the dead cannot praise or serve Him (Psalm 30:9).
Praise God that His Word is true (2 Timothy 3:16), faithfully recording the missteps, soul-searching and restoration even of a man like David, who was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). We can find hope and comfort in David’s story and in that of so many other Godly men and women whom God used to accomplish His purposes, despite their weaknesses.
God may allow Satan to tempt and test us, as He did in the case of Job, but always for our ultimate good and His glory. Satan cannot as much as touch us if God does not permit Him to, for He has surrounded His children with a hedge of protection (Job 1:8-12).
As we shall see next week, God even allowed Jesus Christ, His only begotten son, to descend from Heaven, first to earth and then into the heart of the earth, but always to rise again!