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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Graber

I Love Jesus but I Don’t Like to Struggle

On a recent trip to see my brother and his family in Michigan, my brother and sister-in-law took me out to some sand dunes. I’ve been to sand dunes before, but these were different; steep inclines drop into Lake Michigan--more like sandy cliffs than rolling hills. When we climbed the brief sand slope to reach the viewing deck, there was a big sign cautioning adventurers to carefully consider their climb:

Pictured: The grade of the slope looked what I equate to skiing a black diamond. A warning sign about going down to the bottom suggested people had not successfully navigated the climb more than once before.


Yet, when I walked to the overlook, I saw that several people had not headed the warning sign. When my brother said, "Hey Chelle, what do you think? Want to head to the bottom?" My response was swift and sure: "No." I was keeping my feet on solid ground--or at least closer to it than some of those other people. The people on the sandy slope were struggling to make the climb back up the shifting sand:

Picture on the left is a panned out view of the slope and people laying on the sand. Pictures 2 and 3 are zoomed in as close as my camera could get on people coming up at various locations on the dune.


I watched people try to crawl up the steep incline, clawing the sand with their hands, trying to plant their knees and feet to desperately gain a solid purchase and make some progress. The shifting sand didn’t cooperate, and several people lost distance as the sand shifted and slid them further down the bank. Some people lay face down in the sand, clinging to the loose granules of sand and slowly sliding back down toward the water’s edge. Still, people desperately scrambled to reach the peak.


About as fast as I judged the people trying to climb, I felt an instant pang of sympathy and compassion for their struggle. I blushed over the memories of all of the times I have not heeded warnings from God about the consequences of my actions–particularly in the context of building my faith on the solid of rock of God’s foundation, instead of the shifting sand of false promises. The the gospel of Matthew 7:24 (NIV) shares the account of Jesus telling one of his magnificent metaphors about the importance of having a strong faith built with God as a foundation: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Jesus uses the metaphor of a “rock” to symbolize God. God is big and strong, so I am visualizing a sizeable rock, steady and stable--unmovable--like a mountain.


God is a firm foundation for building faith. The people sliding down the sandy dunes illustrated just how slippery and unstable sand can be. Faith built on sand would be hard to stabilize and constantly changing. A solid rock doesn’t slip and slide; a rock doesn’t move because the mass is firm and dense. If I push against a large rock, the rock will not move without God or heavy duty equipment. The mass of a rock prevents sliding, unlike the sand between my toes when I am on the beach (or in this case, the dunes). Sand, on the other hand, shifts because the sand does not stick together like the mass of a rock. Instead, force against sand causes the sand to move and take on a new shape. Like many people trying to get up the sandy incline, trying to build my faith on sand seems like a difficult path--maybe even futile. I certainly don't want to have to pay the hefty fine like some of the people who could not make it up the hill because I put my faith into an unstable situation or idol.


My brother led my dad up the sandy slope to the dunes we visited. I was huffing when we crested the tiny peak, and I watched with admiration my dad’s ability to recover from the physical challenge of just the small ridge leading to the overlook. I knew the steeper climbing challenge wasn’t for me. The day wasn’t overly hot, but the few people who had taken on the challenge were suffering from heat exhaustion due to the time against the sand, the lack of cover, and the climb–despite most of them being in top athletic condition. I am not in top athletic condition. Instead, I made the choice to keep my feet planted on the peak.


My faith is built on the solid rock of faith–not on sandy ground. Still, I enjoy the beach as a temporary escape:

My brother, my dad, and I enjoying the view as others toils to climb sinking sand. My nieces and sister-in-law quickly sunk their feet in, too! My mom had difficulty making the climb due to a leg injury from a couple of years ago, but she found a nice seat in the shade. A day at the beach can be fun! I feel blessed for our time together.


Whatever challenges you are facing this summer, stay safe and listen to the warnings God sends–even if they come through as a sign. I did find a nice beach without an incline to enjoy for a couple of hours. I sink my feet into the sand next to the water's edge and let the frigid lake lap at my feet and the hot sand, but I’m building my house on the rock.


Best,

Michelle


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