I love to backpack Michigan’s uninhabited areas. Walking level paths with a full pack is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Going up, however, is always a struggle! Getting to the top of the hill seems to take forever, but nothing feels better than the hard-earned rest at the top!
As hard as each ascent is, the descent is always the most challenging. The pressure on every joint—especially my knees—increases until sometimes I can barely hold the weight. Going downhill demands much more of my body—strength and balance—than going uphill.
Many of us live in a culture that views success only in terms of upward movement. If we work hard we expect to be rewarded for that hard work. If we earn a higher degree we expect to be given greater opportunity. If we achieve a certain amount of success in life we expect to be recognized and rewarded. For many of us, this cultural mentality has seeped into our hearts and now influences our attitudes, thinking, decisions, and goals.
Just as I’ve discovered while hiking, the problems arise when we go down: job loss, unwanted position change, divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of reputation. These descents happen to many very good people, and they often result in discouragement: Have I done something to displease God?
Lets consider this question in light of what Christ did for us. Imagine if you can what His descent must have looked like in order to fulfill His Father’s will. He descended to Earth and chose to live with His creation, submitting to their disrespectful, unappreciative, and demeaning attitudes and humiliation, and allowing men—His creation!—to nail Him to a cross where He died a horrific death.
Had Christ done something to displease God?
We know that’s not true, but we’re also sometimes overly hasty to presume that our own descents have resulted from God’s disfavor. While a downhill slide may certainly be a corrective from the Lord, it need not always be the case. As finite beings we are not able to fully comprehend or appreciate what Jesus did that day on Calvary’s hill, but the Crucifixion is a worthy topic of reflection when considering life’s descents. In fact, we need this perspective in order to become the people He has called us to be.
Jesus came to serve rather than to be served. That lifestyle—modeled to perfection by our Lord—is our present calling, and it’s also our future destiny. In God’s eyes, failure is never final, and descent is the only the way to discover the real treasure: His perfect love and boundless approval.