If you are a Switch owner this week’s Nintendo Direct could not have come at a better time. Perhaps you have already collected all of the moons in Super Mario Odyssey or you have discovered every shrine in the Legend of Zelda. Maybe you are just tired of shooting the odd squid children that inhabit Splatoon with ink and you were starting to get filled with the old panic. The panic that is ONLY known to a long-time Nintendo aficionado like myself… is this it? Is there going to be anything else? Nintendo may be my favorite gaming company of all time, but they have a very unfortunate track record of providing a handful of truly innovative titles on each platform they launch and then seemingly forgetting it exists for the remainder of it’s life cycle. As a result, hardware such as the N64, GameCube, Wii, and the recently dearly departed WiiU (you went too soon!!!) seemed to have been abandoned prematurely with large holes in its library that were simply never filled.
That old feeling was starting to creep in again. That sinister worry that this time would be the same… that Nintendo had front-loaded it’s year one launch for the Switch without properly preparing for the future. Such a break in momentum for the record-breaking Switch would have all of us pondering the worst… but then Nintendo swooped in with the reveal that one of their most recognized and beloved properties was on its way to the Switch. And not just another rehash of an old WiiU title like Pokken Tournament or Mario Kart… no, this would be a fresh experience built from the ground up for the Switch. And it had been in the plans all along.
I have to confess that this feeling of worry is not limited to video game releases in my life. To be fair, in this realm that is the least of my concerns. What is more pressing is that many times I have had this urge to panic when my life seems to have very little hope on the horizon and all of the warning signs that another system crash is imminent are being displayed on the dashboard of my world view. Like a blinking check engine light on a vehicle that has smoke coming out of the hood, it is easy to lose faith when you see that a familiar pattern is emerging in your life that has always ended in failure or destruction before. Perhaps you have felt the same?
It is funny how I am quick to grasp the reins of my life and take credit for my success when positive momentum has been established and then hurriedly throw the reins up in the air and ask God to catch them when the bottom drops out. Like riding a roller coaster in the dark, this life can make it difficult to even brace yourself for impact because you never know when that slow rise up is about to result in a dramatic two-story plummet. And this is where we find out if our trust is truly in the Lord… or if it is in the vehicle that we are riding this roller coaster in and our pathetic grip on the safety harness to keep us safe if something goes wrong.
Fortunately, I am not the first to have these feelings as revealed by Paul in the book of Romans as he wrote to the believers located in Rome, the heart of the evil empire that was currently oppressing Christians anywhere they could be found. And it is here we find his encouraging words that should help everyone on this roller coaster to relax, throw their hands up, and enjoy the ride…
Romans 8:28-30 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
There are a lot of big “religious-sounding” words in these verses that may make this verse feel more like a Sunday School lesson than something that is going to dig you out of your hole of worry, so let’s break this down for a moment. The word “predestined” is not something you will hear on the radio in your current musical rotation and it is unlikely you find a great many reasons to interject it into a discussion with your friends (Dude, I ran the ball straight up the gut of the defense like I was PREDESTINED to score man! Predestination for the win!!!). This is the Greek compound word proorizō which is made up of the root words pro (meaning before) and horizō (meaning to define or determine). This word literally means to determine before hand, which may not jive with your world view that you have a great deal of choice in your life path. But once you divorce yourself from the feelings of helplessness that a dust-being (yeah, we are actually just made of dust you know) has when confronted with the reality that your choices are far more limited than you realize, a peace can finally wash over you.
The reason we (typically) do not panic when riding a roller coaster is because even though we don’t know the path it will take or the manner in which it will arrive at its destination, we have faith that those who created the structure did so not to kill us, but to deliver us there safely and entertained as well. That gift shop at the end of the ride would not be very well patronized if all of the riders arrive at the end in less than optimal condition, you know. And our knowledge that many other people have successfully disembarked the ride and may actually be lining up to ride it again encourages us to joint with the others who have shelled out a decent sum of money for the feeling of losing control for just a little while.
The Lord has not only a plan for your life, but a very specific path for each and every one of us. There is no random chance that caused your circumstances to fall the way that they did… it was “determined” before you took your first breath. And when you feel that old familiar panic that the ride is about to fly out of control the same way it has before, it is in that moment that the Lord is able to live up to His promise in Jeremiah 29:11..
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
He spoke to the Israeli nation as they were about to head into captivity in Babylon, very much like their slavery in Egypt many years before. And through this eerily similar experience He reassured them that He still had a plan that involved peace and hope, not pain and suffering. A plan that was written before the stars existed.
Nintendo may have seemingly let us down in the past, but every step they have made brought us to where we are now, complete with the bizarre stylings of the Wii remote and the poorly received WiiU tablet controller that are both quite obvious in their impact on the design of the much more beloved Switch. And just when we thought there was nothing on the horizon to look forward to, we see the light at the end of the tunnel for yet another potential masterpiece to fall into our hands. And I would encourage you that no matter what darkness you are surrounded by and how familiar this pain feels to keep faith and remember that your Father has the same plans for you… plans He pre-determined for peace and hope, and a future with Him in eternity.