I had the wrong end of the stick.

Up to this point, I had heavily relied on my walking stick. With it I had carefully inched my way up and down steep hills with sliding stones and in and out of dense forests where darkness prevailed.

No matter how much weight I put on it, it stood strong. No matter how rough and undulating the terrain, it remained steady. And it was smooth to touch. My hand never grew weary of gripping it, although the journey was hard and long.

But somehow, while pushing my way through thick branches, I must have flipped it the wrong way around. Each step was a battle to stay balanced. Splinters pierced my hand until I was this close to throwing the stick away entirely. I grumbled under my breath.

Between my tiredness and stubborn determination just to get on and get it over with, I stupidly just made do… which led, quite literally, to my downfall.

The stick slipped on the muddy ground. I acted quickly to try to right myself, but took a wrong step and jarred my ankle. I was sent sprawling down the slope.

Battered, bruised, and filthy (in more ways than one), I managed to get my aching body into a sitting position, took a good look at the stick, and finally realised my error.

The rough and sturdy and the smooth and supple were two ends of the same thing… but what a huge difference it makes when you turn it the wrong way.

I had the wrong end of the stick.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8

Notice how hardship and faith work together to create steadfastness… how our confession of a desperate need and our confession of faith in God’s generosity result in the meeting of that need. But it is faith to which we must cling, otherwise we will be unstable and, if we don’t stop and have a change of heart, there will be additional pain, additional obstacles.

In a similar way, we often hold on too tightly to the temporary version, or copy, of eternal things (e.g. looking good in the eyes of others versus pleasing God, physical food versus spiritual food).

However, praise God that in His grace He uses even those things to bring us back to our senses, to remind us of truths we had forgotten!

I pray that the Lord will show you any misunderstandings or wrong-ends-of-the-stick that you may be holding onto, just as He has been showing me.

“Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” ~ Hebrews 12:11-13 (Read the whole chapter)

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