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Riding Roller Coasters: Regulating Your Faith

Sep 25, 2016 02:35AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith

Emotional dysregulation is a common term in our house. It’s one of the side orders that go along with ADHD. Combined with sensory integration issues, my youngest child can sometimes spiral into depths of depression or anxiety that would take an emotionally regulated person much longer to get to the same place.

Emotional dysregulation is not my favorite word, especially on a Monday morning when school looms but a little boy’s cognitive switch has not turned on yet.

Needless to say, we consult many specialists, attend various support groups, rush to hear professionals in the area speak on related subjects, and read prolific amounts of articles and books on the topic. The exercises and coping strategies—tools in our toolkit, so to speak—have grown to be so numerous, I need a spreadsheet to keep it all straight: brush his limbs, adjust his joints, bounce on a trampoline, swim, run, roll something on his back, dig in the garden, walk him like a wheelbarrow, burrow him in cushions, carry heavy things upstairs, build a fort. Believe it or not, many of these activities help significantly, but it can be exhausting keeping up with it all.

Emotional regulation can be a full-time job at times, so when my friend suggested we join her family at the amusement park, I felt like it was just what the doctor ordered: plenty of stimulation, spinning, proprioceptive workout, and the risk-taking behavior so hardwired into people with ADHD. Exhilaration, adrenaline rush—what more could an unbalanced body need to set itself right?

My plan worked, and my son had a great day. It was interesting to observe him in contrast to my older son who doesn’t need the wind in his face at high speeds above the ground to prove anything to himself. He prefers to be grounded. The thrill of the ride means very little to him.

And yet, I wonder, what is he missing?

I am a lot like my younger son in the sense that I prefer to experience the highs and lows of life and not just live in the middle. That’s one part temperament and one part personality. To me, the highs can only be appreciated when we know the depths of the lows. Some people, like my oldest son, prefer to stay as close to the middle as possible. Maybe it feels safer there.

But our faith sometimes needs the dips, doesn’t it? For better or for worse, we don’t know how much we need God and how much His presence makes a difference until we completely fail ourselves. Humankind is so incredibly independent—until suddenly, it’s not. 

That phone call that changes your life because there was an accident.

That MRI result.

That pink slip handed out. Your job is over. Take your things and go.

That Dear John letter on your breakfast bar.

That slow slide into addiction.

That seemingly innocent behavior or flirtation that is now on the verge of wrecking several lives.

That graveside you cling to. You just can’t let go.

For most of us, life doesn’t bob along with only small blips on the radar. There are times we crash and burn—as a result of our own poor choices or someone else’s. Or, difficult rites of passage happen. We love people, and we lose people.

What do you do with the emotional havoc and chaos? Do these roller coasters of life bring you back to more regular conversations with God? Can you find your grounding in His Word, His promises, His presence?

When my son walked off each hilly, fast-paced ride, the firm foundation of solid earth under his feet helped him get his bearing.

God is like that. When we spin and our lives seem upside-down, with us hanging suspended in midair for what seems like forever, spending time with Him helps us find our balance again. We understand the world and its devastations in the greater context of His eternal love. It’s the only way to get our equilibrium back. 

Sometimes we choose our roller coasters, and at other times we just end up on them. Either way, we can regulate by abiding in Christ.

Colossians 3:1-3, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Our framework for facing difficult times is remembering the things that are above…the faith we have in that which is at this point unseen.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Unless we truly believe this, our roller coasters are going to knock us off the edge quite a bit. We are going to live in fear of them.

On the other hand, if we see them as ways to regulate our faith, to build history with God, Our Father, we can find strength, grounding, love, knowledge, and the fullness of God as we persevere on the wild rides of life.

Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (emphasis mine).

I take so much comfort in what Jesus said to His disciples. It reminds me that we will eventually get off the roller coaster, and that, to me, makes the rides easier to endure.

John 16:33, ESV, Jesus speaking

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

If we can view our roller coasters as having an expiration date as well as serving the greater purpose of refining our faith and bringing us closer to the Father, we will be less tossed about and will be firmly seat-belted in with God at our sides. Even our eventual landing belongs to Him.


Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.

Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.



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