AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
Two Christians are standing in front of a dense tropical jungle. Neither of them has any experience with outdoor survival. Suddenly the Holy Spirit appears in front of them. He says, “Heaven is on the other side of this jungle. You have two choices. I can either take you there right now, or I can take you through this jungle first. If you decide to come through the jungle with Me, it will not be an easy journey, but I promise I will get you through it.”
The first man says, “I’ve heard wonderful things about Heaven. I want to be taken there right now.”
The second man thinks for a moment, then asks, “Will it just be You and me in the jungle?”
The Holy Spirit nods.
“Then I’ll take the jungle,” the second man says.
“Why would you choose the jungle?” the first man asks in surprise. “It looks like it’s going to be a miserable experience, and it’s going to take you forever to get through it.”
The second man replies, “When I get to Heaven, I want to be with my Best Friend, not a Stranger.”
Do you ever get frustrated with how long God is taking to mature you down here? There are so many hassles and trials that we lug around with us on earth: lusts, addictions, insecurities and fears. Why doesn’t God just wave a wand and give us faith that never wavers so we can stop crumbling into doubt the moment some new trial appears on the horizon? Why doesn’t He fix whatever is wrong with us that makes us so easily influenced by the approval of humans and the threats of demons? We want to be grateful and never complain. Then we hear ourselves whining over some trivial inconvenience and we groan in frustration. We want to believe God when He says how much He loves us. But then we hear some other Christian talk about a word they’ve received and suddenly we’re pouting and telling God He’s mean to have favorites. Why do we have to be so petty? Why doesn’t God give us what we need to treat Him with honor all of the time?
Your life on earth is like that jungle in our story above. The jungle is a dense, steamy, miserable mess. Trudging through it with God is a royal pain in the neck and it often brings out the worst in you. But then there are the times when you slip in some ridiculous way and the two of you have a good laugh together. And then there are the times when you almost get swept away crossing a raging river and He grabs your hand just in time. Then there are the days when you just can’t go another step and He carries you until you get your strength back.
The nights can be scary in the jungle. Creepy noises make you move closer to God and He puts His arm around you and tells you pleasant stories until you fall asleep. Sometimes you get injured, and when you do He’s there to comfort you and bandage up the wound.
There is no trail in the jungle, you just seem to walk forever. Sometimes you go for miles in silence, but then the two of you will have some amazing conversation that makes you see life in a whole new way. Sometimes you’re certain you’re wandering in circles and you get all testy and call God a bunch of nasty names. But then you feel bad and apologize and He always smiles and pulls you into an embrace. On and on you go, chatting on and off, sharing viewpoints, sharing passions. As time passes, you stop thinking about how hot and sweaty you are. You stop thinking about how long you’ve been walking and how tiresome the monotonous scenery has become. You don’t mind the jungle as much as you used to because you’ve become so focused on your wonderful Companion. The more you learn about Him, the more you love Him, and the more privileged you feel to have Him as your personal Guide. Why should He come walking with you like this, sharing in all the hassles of your trip? Why should He be so interested in everything you have to say? Surely your little questions and concerns must sound pretty trivial to someone like Him, yet when you see the look in His eyes, you know they are not. He really does love you. He really does enjoy being with you.
The journey is far more important to God than arriving at a certain destination. It’s during the journey that the bond between the two of you has the chance to really deepen. If He made you perfect tomorrow, what chance would He have to comfort you and reassure you that everything was going to be alright? If you never doubted and if you were never afraid, then you’d never come running into His protective embrace and you’d never give His hand that nervous, extra tight squeeze. God loves it when you stick close and keep a tight grip on Him. He loves opportunities to be your Hero, Rescuer, and Problem Solver. He isn’t in a rush to whisk you off to praise-alluyah land. Sure, Heaven will be great, but right now is pretty great, too. Right now is when the relationship is deepening.
The first time you stand in God’s Presence in Heaven, He wants you to be looking up at your Best Friend, not a powerful Stranger. Miracle cures aren’t as great as they sound. Too much curing and fixing leaves very little room for those heartfelt conversations that come with stress and struggle. It’s because God cares so much about the quality of your relationship with Him that He takes His time in maturing you. The journey is where it all happens. As long as you are on this earth, there is still richer communion to be had. Don’t let your flaws and failures get you down—they are really blessings in your life. If you were perfect, you would miss out on so much of who God is. It’s the flawed and fallen who are positioned to know our Savior best.