Yesterday I went for a bicycle ride along the Rideau River.
Riding a bicycle is a very ordinary, everyday activity for many people, but for me, yesterday’s ride was cause for great rejoicing. You see, eight weeks ago today I dislocated my shoulder in a cycling accident, and until the last couple of days I have been unable to ride my bike.
Although I only adopted cycling as a regular routine a little over a year ago after a hiatus of many years, I have come to love it as an activity that benefits me in three dimensions. Not only is the physical activity good for my body, but cycling also clears my mind, brings joy to my heart and provides a context in which I can hear the voice of God. So for me, yesterday’s ride through the parkland along the Rideau River was a blessed experience, bringing refreshment to body, soul and spirit.
Yesterday I also played my guitar and got through two songs. This is something else I have been unable to do since my accident, because my shoulder injury led to reduced strength in my hand and wrist. My grip is still not as strong as before the accident, but it’s at a point where I can start playing again for a few minutes at a time. My fingers hurt when I play, and there are still some chords I can’t make, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. This again is very significant to me.
No-one enjoys experiences of loss, however small they may seem to others. When I could no longer ride my bike or play my guitar, even though I knew the loss was temporary, there was a significant hole in my life. For me, these two activities represent ways in which I experience the goodness and living presence of God. When I was unable to cycle or play guitar, although God was still present and I had much to be thankful for, two of the ways in which I had been accustomed to connecting with Him were unavailable to me, and at times I felt the loss deeply. And when the hoped-for recovery seemed far off and the process was slower than I wanted it to be, I began to experience the truth of the first part of the words of Solomon in Proverbs 13:12 :
Hope deferred makes the heart sick
But now that I am beginning to be able to resume these activities that I have come to love, I can say an enthusiastic YES to the second part of this proverb :
But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Why does all this matter? Wouldn’t a true Christian just ignore his feelings, soldier on and keep trusting God regardless of circumstances? Well, yes and no. A true follower of Christ will continue to soldier on, yes, but not always without a struggle. All of us – even “greats” like Jesus and the Apostle Paul – are affected by the blows we take in life. Pretending that such blows leave us untouched is simply dishonest, but letting them steal our victory is a serious mistake. The Apostle Paul, whose trials were surely far greater than mine, put it this way :
Last night my wife and daughter and I watched the film Shadowlands, a dramatization of the love relationship between C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. It is a touching story of love, loss and longing. Lewis’ own experience of loss shed fresh light on the truth of his assertion that pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. All forms of pain and loss are reflections of the fact that we live in a fallen world. The Enemy of our souls attempts to bring us down through suffering, but God has a different agenda. Although He loves us and does not derive pleasure from watching us suffer, He uses experiences of pain and loss to remind us of our need for Him – if we will listen. And since we are inclined to take His goodness for granted, temporary deprivation can actually be good for us because it causes us to long for His deliverance.
As my son Simeon reminded me recently, in the Biblical view of life death is not natural. We were made to long for eternity, and our longings will only ultimately be fulfilled in the New Jerusalem. Every other desire and longing fades in the light of the one desire that we were made for and that alone will satisfy our souls – the desire to see God face to face, to dwell in His presence forever, with His name on our foreheads (Revelation 22:1-5). Come, Lord Jesus!