Life is not linear. It doesn’t go in a straight line. Westerners tend to think linearly. The trend in motion will last forever. That’s why you hear people say things like, “Real estate is a good investment because it always goes up.” And, “The climate has been warming so it will continue to warm until the polar icecap melts and floods New York City.”
Life is cyclical. The current trend in motion only lasts until the trend changes. Real estate will go up until it starts to go down. The climate will warm until it starts to cool. The economy will boom until it starts to contract.
Your life is not linear. It is not a smooth, straight path gradually leading to a climax where you will live happily ever after. If your life is great now, don’t expect it to continue to be great forever, because life goes up and down. There are mountains and valleys. When you reach a peak, you will start heading into a valley. And when you are in a valley, you won’t stay there forever… unless you give up.
The mountain tops and valley bottoms are the turning points where the trend changes. There are many turning points in a hike through mountains. You are constantly going up and down. Some legs of the journey are longer than others. Some are steeper than others. The highest peaks and the lowest valleys are the major turning points.
Major turning points are almost always accompanied by dramatic events.
The Scriptures are filled with examples of major turning points because that’s where you find life’s lessons. Let’s look at David for an example of life’s cycles.
David was the least son in Jesse’s house. The greatest prophet in Israel came to Jesse’s house for dinner and David wasn’t invited. He was watching the sheep. But that day was a major turning point for David. Samuel called him in from the sheep and anointed him King. Wow. What a turn of events. As a kid, I dreamed of being rich, powerful, and famous. David was just promised by God’s prophet that he would become the richest, most powerful, and most famous person in his nation!
Things began to happen. Saul called David to play music for him. David proved himself to be the bravest man in Israel when he killed Goliath. Saul took him into full-time service and gave him his daughter for a wife. David’s best friend was the King’s son. Life was good.
But David’s success became the seeds of the next major turning point in his life. Saul became afraid of David because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul. (1Sam 18:12) So Saul began to persecute David. It was subtle at first but ended in Saul trying to kill him causing David to flee for his life. David spent the next years running from Saul.
David eventually fled to the land of the Philistines to escape from Saul. He and his 400 men and their families settled in the town of Ziklag. The Philistines gathered for war against Israel. David and his men went with the Philistines. But when they arrived, the other Philistine kings didn’t want David there, fearing that in the heat of battle David would become loyal to Saul and turn on the Philistines. So they sent David and his men home. When they arrived, they discovered that Ziklag and been raided. All their wives, children, animals, and possessions were gone. David and his men were in anguish. They talked of stoning David.
David was in extreme distress. David’s life couldn’t have gotten worse.
When Job reached the lowest part of the valley having lost everything, his wife told him to curse God and die. Job didn’t. David likewise didn’t curse or blame God for his grave misfortune. He instead sought the Lord, who told him to pursue the raiders. This was the turning point.
Things began to turn for the better. They overtook the raiders and recovered everyone and everything that was stolen. Shortly after returning to Ziklag, David received news that Saul was dead. He was soon anointed king of Judah in Hebron. After running from Saul for so long, God’s promise to David was suddenly fulfilled.
Most major turning points in life follow this pattern. Pressure builds over a long period of time and nothing seems to be happening. But suddenly, there is intense pressure and your life changes quickly.
In physics, this phenomenon is called a “phase transition.” The best example of a phase transition is when water turns into steam. As water is heated, energy increases in the water in the form of heat. It takes a long time to add enough energy to the water before it reaches the boiling point. Then suddenly the water starts boiling rapidly as it turns to steam.
A baby grows slowly for 9 months in the womb. You begin to wonder if labor will ever start. But then the contractions begin. They are light at first and grow more intense. When the cervix is fully dilated the labor changes. It is called “transition.” The contractions become strong and painful and the baby is soon born.
Why did God design the world to operate this way?
I don’t know. But I suspect that it has to do with resistance to change. Water wants to stay a liquid so it requires a lot of energy to get it to the point of turning into a gas.
We naturally resist change, so it takes a lot of energy to get us to the point of change.
God uses phase transitions to test us — to see what is in our hearts. The result of the test will determine the direction of our lives.
Job could have taken his wife’s advice and cursed God. He resisted the temptation and God revealed himself to Job in a powerful way.
David could have given up at Ziklag, but instead, he sought God’s guidance. He soon became king.
Jesus in Gethsemane could have decided to do His own will instead of God’s will. He soon became the first-born from the dead.
Saul in his first battle could have waited the seven days for Samuel to come and make the sacrifice. He instead disobeyed God and made the sacrifice himself which led to the loss of his kingdom.
God puts us in tight spots to test our hearts to see if we will trust in Him and obey Him. Most fail the test.
Caleb and Joshua passed their test and entered the promised land. Everyone else died in the wilderness. After Israel failed, God turned them around to head back into the desert. Up until then, they were making steady progress to reach the promised land. Can you imagine the feeling of turning back into the desert knowing you were going to die there?
Jesus spent 30 years preparing for His ministry. At the beginning of His ministry, He was tested by Satan. After 40 days of fasting, Satan applied pressure. The test was intense but short. He passed and was qualified to begin His public ministry.
Then for three years, the intensity grew. More and more people followed Him. More and more people tried to kill Him. He became the hot topic of the day. All the while, He knew what was ahead of Him.
Then came His final night. Just before He was betrayed, He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. The anguish was so great He sweat drops of blood. He wrestled with doing His will or His Father’s will. He spent 33 years preparing for this time. But He still had to go through the test of whether He would submit to His Father’s will. But once He passed the test, things proceeded quickly. In less than 24 hours He was dead.
Most — if not all — major turning points build slowly in intensity leading up to the turning point. Then something happens suddenly.
Many of the major decisions I have had to make are similar. The issue builds for months or years. Then things come to a head that forces a decision. Then once the decision is made, change comes rapidly. A recent example occurred in our move to Chile. God began speaking to us about moving. But it took a year for us to fully know His will and timing. But after a fast, God spoke the simple word, “Put a ‘For-Sale’ sign in your yard.” The buyer called the next morning. And within exactly 40 days from the day I put a sign in my yard, we loaded a 20-foot container, disposed of our extra stuff, and closed on the house. Things move quickly when it is time.
Your life is subject to cycles. It will not remain constant. You will have turning points. At every turning point, you have a choice — trust God or resist His direction. Trusting God in the hard times leads to life. Resisting God and going your own way leads to destruction and death.
I posted this article on the morning of November 1, 2020. Little did I know that I was to have a test that day. As I was drinking my morning coffee a tooth started hurting. It had started to hurt off and on a couple of weeks before. The hot coffee caused me pain so I would take a sip of cold water between sips of coffee. The pain usually would subside after 15 to 30 minutes. So I went out to my workshop.
But this day the pain didn’t subside. It got worse and became constant. By evening I had a fever. All I could do was lie down and concentrate on controlling the pain. I was also reaffirming God’s faithfulness to heal me in my mind. It’s hard to believe when you are going through a painful trial. That afternoon Teresa mentioned that I was going through a Ziklag. The attack then made sense.
Teresa and the kids anointed me with oil and prayed. We asked our older kids in the States to pray. The pain lessened. I heard the Spirit say to have Teresa sing praise songs for me. It’s not something I had ever done. She did and I was able to sing along a little. As she sang, tears of joy filled my eyes. I did not expect this reaction. It was the first time I had cried in a long time. The pain left. The fever broke.