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EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- There's an old joke about a man who jumped out of an airplane only to discover that his parachute was jammed. As the wind rushed by him, he took the thing off and desperately tried to untangle it.
Suddenly a man shot past him, flying upward at tremendous speed. The man with the chute looked up and yelled, "Hey, do you know anything about parachutes?"
The other man called down, "No. Do you know anything about gas stoves?"
Oh, the ups and downs of life! Seems like we're always going up or down, doesn't it? Every day has its high spots and low points, and every year has its peaks and its valleys. Sometimes we're on the mountaintop; sometimes in the pits. Sometimes we're high on life, and then we're down in the dumps.
Christians aren't immune to life's alternating patterns, nor were the heroes of the Scripture. Think of any biblical character you want to, from Adam to Zacharias. As you read about God's people in His Word, each had good days and bad ones.
Take Elijah, for example. In one chapter, we see him calling down fire from heaven on the ridge of Mount Carmel. Turn a few pages and he's hiding under a juniper tree wishing he were dead.
In the first chapter of Job's book, we see him rich and respected, on top of the world. Happy home. Happy wife. Good health. Great wealth. A few verses later, he's sitting in the ashes, mourning his family, reduced to poverty and scraping his sores with pottery shards.
Consider the patriarch Joseph. He's pictured in Genesis 40 rotting in prison; turn the page and he's the prime minster of Egypt.
When John the Baptist started preaching, he instantly became the most successful and renowned evangelist in four centuries. But when we next see him, he's sending word to Jesus from prison, asking, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" (Matthew 11:3).
In Matthew 16, Peter heard Jesus saying to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah." Five verses later, he heard the same voice say, "Get behind Me, Satan!"
In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul talked about being caught up into the third heaven; a paragraph later he's burdened with his thorn in the flesh.
In Revelation 1, the aged Apostle John was banished from church and country, sentenced to lonely exile on a penal island; but by verse 10 he was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, caught up in heavenly visions to see the splendor of the enthroned Christ.
Perhaps no one except Christ Himself experienced a greater range of highs and lows than King David, the author of many of the Psalms. We love his writings because he seems to have known all the ups and downs of life as we do; and there's a Psalm to match our every mood. Psalm 30 is an excellent example. It begins: "I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up."
The Hebrew term David used for "lifted up" is the same word that was used for dipping a bucket down into a well and drawing up water. David was saying, "Lord, you reached into the grave and pulled me right out. I was almost gone." Furthermore, notice the word "extol." It means "to lift up." The psalmist was saying, "I will lift You up in my praise, Lord, for You have lifted me up in Your mercy."
David went on to describe how God had taken him from hurting to healing (verses 1-4); from weeping to joy (verse 5); from prosperity to poverty (verses 6-7); from mourning to dancing (verse 11), and from silence to singing (verse 12). He ended by saying, "You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You" (verses 11-12).
Psalm 30 simply reflects Scriptural realism. Life isn't ideal; troubles hit us hard; we can be cast down. But God is faithful; His compassions never fail, for great is His faithfulness. He is all we need, our All-Sufficient Savior, our All-in-All. Whether we're up or whether we're down, He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.
This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers and in Townhall.com. For permission to reprint it, contact Myrna Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.