Have you ever played the classic board game Chutes and Ladders?
Chutes and Ladders is an ancient Indian board game that has become a worldwide classic. It is played between two or more players on a game board having 100 numbered squares which form a grid. A number of “ladders” are pictured on the board, each connecting two specific board squares. Several “chutes” are displayed as well, also connecting two squares. Each player starts with a token in the starting square and takes turns rolling a die to move their token by the number of squares indicated by the die roll, progressing through the numbered squares. If, on completion of this move, they land on the lower-numbered end of the squares with a “ladder”, they can move their token up to the higher-numbered square. This is good! It is a big leap forward in the game! However, if they land on the higher-numbered square which has a “chute,” they must move their token down to the lower-numbered square. Bummer! This is a big set-back. Play continues in this manner with players moving forward on the squares while sometimes advancing up a ladder and at other times sliding down a chute. The winner is the first player to reach the last square on the board.
I’ve discovered that my life is a lot like Chutes and Ladders. As my life moves forward I seem to make good progress – physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. It seems like I’m finally getting somewhere. I’m finally getting ahead and moving closer to where I want to be. Occasionally I even have a “ladder” kind of experience where I make a great leap forward. But just when I think things are going great I land on a chute and it sets me back. Sometimes the chute is little, but sometimes it’s big. It’s really discouraging when you ride down a big chute. Has this ever happened to you?
My first inclination is to get really frustrated, angry, discouraged and even depressed when I hit those chutes and seem to go backward. But God is showing me that this is all part of the journey for those of us who follow Jesus.
First, God wants me to become a humble person and nothing is more humbling in life than to experience set-backs. If the only things that ever happened to me were good things, I’d have very little appreciation of them and would feel entitled. Instead, hardship keeps my feet on the ground and keeps me from becoming conceited. The apostle Paul said that the hardships he faced worked this way in his life:
“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).”
Secondly, God uses the “chutes” to help me grow in Christ-likeness. Christ suffered and so will those who follow Him. But the suffering and trials we face in our lives have a purpose. James tells us:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).”
God is not saying we should rejoice in our set-backs. But we can rejoice in what the set-backs are going to accomplish in us – maturity.
Finally, the set-backs in my life keep me dependent upon our heavenly Father. Proverbs 3:5-6 says:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
The Christian life is a life of trust. It is a life of total dependence upon our heavenly Father.
Sometimes I’m afraid we think trust in God means an absence of problems or pain in this life. We might be tempted to think, “If I trust in God, there won’t be any more ‘chutes!’” But this is far from the truth. When riding a “chute” I actually have to trust Father the most! When I can’t see my way in the dark I must trust Someone to lead me.
In his book, Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning puts it this way:
“We often presume that trust will dispel the confusion, illuminate the darkness, vanquish the uncertainty, and redeem the times. But the crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 11 testifies that this is not the case. Our trust does not bring final clarity on this earth. It does not still the chaos or dull the pain or provide a crutch. When all else is unclear, the heart of trust says, as Jesus did on the cross, ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’ (Luke 23:46).”
I suspect that most of your lives are like mine – full of ups and downs, “chutes and ladders.” But my hope and prayer is that through it all God will accomplish His perfect work in us. May the peace of Christ be with you in the “chutes and ladders” of life!
– Scott Eaton, Senior Pastor