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Since I came to love God with my whole being and with all the strength of my heart, fear has left me. ... I have placed my trust in God and fear nothing.
— Diary of St. Faustina

By Rick Hermann

When you worry about the ups and downs in your life, remember the joyful thrill of riding on a roller coaster.

Standing in line for the world's scariest roller coaster, my friends and I pass an ominous sign: "Be afraid." We laugh and press forward, past another menacing sign: "Be very afraid." A third sign warns: "I'd turn back if I were you."

This adventure clearly is not for the faint-hearted.

Our destination is "The Screaming Monster." With growing excitement, we all jump on board, anticipating the wild ride ahead. Lurching forward, we ride clackety-clack up to a dizzying height. The bravest among us shout, "Nice knowing you!" and show off by raising their hands to the sky, defying gravity, tempting fate and proclaiming; "I am not afraid!"

The mere mortals among us ride with our eyes squeezed tight, holding on for dear life, our knuckles turning white. Suddenly we jolt and slide into a terrifying, heart-racing 200-foot drop, followed by two upside-down loop-de-loops, with alternating darkness and light.

We relish the moment as our world turns upside down, twisting and turning and screaming with a mix of terror and delight, the brave and timid alike. We take courage in the midst of it all, knowing we are safe. All is well, we know, all is well.

At last we clank safely back to the platform, where we disembark with wobbly knees and windblown hair. We greet the solid ground gratefully, and one of us kisses the ground on hands and knees. We are revitalized, renewed and richly blessed. With deeper friendships from our experience, we share a greater trust in the goodness of life, more courage to face the next ride, and a resounding chorus of "Let's do it again!"

Sad to say, along the roller coaster of life, some of us lose our way. We "grow up" and lose our trust in life. We forget our youthful love, our love of God. A 7-year-old daughter was thrilled when her family took her to Disney World for the first time. She headed straight for Space Mountain. Her father worried that the roller coaster would be too scary for her, but to his delight, she rode it twice.

The next year when the family returned to Disney World, the daughter, now 8, again dragged her parents to Space Mountain. As they stood in line, her father could see her soberly studying the signs that warned about the ride's speed.

"Dad," she said, "I don't think I want to go."

"Why?" her father asked. "You enjoyed this ride last time."

"I know," the daughter replied, "But this year I can read better!"

Like this little girl, we start to believe the signs that say "Be afraid."

Slowly we fear for our safety. We begin to doubt that the nuts and bolts have been properly checked. We no longer see the smiles of others, we see only terror. We become deaf to the laughter of our friends and hear only their screams of fright.

We need to relax and rediscover our youthful trust in our heavenly Father, the Roller Coaster Tycoon. Now we can enjoy the topsy-turvy ride through the peaks and valleys of our lives.

We can rejoice like King David who proclaims; "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me" (Ps 23).

We can trust that the nuts and bolts are safe and the seatbelts secure. Our Father is watching out for our safety.

So hold on tight to your faith in God, grab a cotton candy, and enjoy the ride of your life.

Rick Hermann is a Catholic author and career coach. He responds to email at [email protected].

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