I long for the cold embrace of death,” tweeted my friend’s teenage son—feigning mock despair. Apparently his second-hour high school orchestra class was dragging on too long. So he put into practice what he had learned in his first-hour class: creative writing.
I do not enjoy being at a loss for words. I feel helpless when I can’t offer comfort to someone who’s hurting. Facing unexpected circumstances with a loved one is difficult enough, but sometimes we feel powerless in not being able to answer their question, “Why?” In our desperation, we rifle through our thoughts in an attempt to at least ease their pain. But those who’ve been through deep waters of trial can attest that the silence of a friend is more golden than misspoken words, especially when the attempt to form answers only produces more pain.
Ulfberht. No, that’s not a typo. It’s the name for a special type of Viking sword that far exceeded the quality of any other European sword of its era. Where other swords would shatter, Ulfberhts were able to bend and still keep their edge. This was a huge advantage on the field of battle, where one’s life depended on the quality of his blade. Modern-day researchers have discovered that what made these swords so special was the extreme heat in which they were forged. The high temperature allowed for more impurities to be removed, resulting in a far stronger and more flexible blade.
According to Christian tradition, Telemachus was a fourth-century monk who jumped into a Roman Coliseum to stop a gladiator fight, shouting, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” Telemachus was killed for his efforts, but his act of courage, compassion, and conviction triggered the end of the violent “games.” It’s said that Telemachus was divinely inspired to visit Rome, and he stayed true to his calling.
Kris Silbaugh plays American football with just one hand. What’s more, he plays receiver—a position that’s all about using two hands. A receiver must catch passes thrown to him by a quarterback and then run with the football before being tackled by the defense. In 2015, the young man set the all-time receiving yards record at his high school, having amassed more than 912 receiving yards (the previous record) for his career. Born without a left hand due to a birth defect, Silbaugh says, “It has never stopped me. I just don’t let it—never have.”
Most of us know someone for whom life has been particularly hard. Maybe they live with chronic pain, have faced the loss of a child, or have faced multiple adversities. Perhaps you’ve been in this place too. If so, you’ll know that dealing with these challenges can be spiritually depressing. We want God to intervene, but He hasn’t. And that can leave us feeling sad, lonely, and angry.
In her blog, Gayla wrote about rescuing a cactus from the garbage bins of an apartment building in her neighborhood. She found a single stem that showed some signs of life. With some pruning, the seemingly dead plant blossomed once again and is now thriving. She shared the details of the cactus transformation in order to help those who think that their cacti are beyond hope.
When motorcycle riders approach a sharp turn in the road, they strive to look beyond it to the direction they want to head. By looking ahead—where they want to go—they can ride smoothly through the turn and continue on their journey.
I recently watched a viral video in which men were voluntarily subjected to pain similar to what women experience in childbirth. The men began the experiment in good spirits, joking around as electrodes were attached to their abdomens. But as the pain began and eventually increased, they started to grimace and wince in pain—eventually screaming and clutching each other’s hands for emotional support. As I watched the video, I thought about my own wife—the mother of our five kids—and couldn’t help but wonder: How do women endure that kind of suffering?
Howling winds, booming thunderclaps, and lightning flashes tend to make me nervous, even when I’m sheltered in a safe, dry place. Gentle rain showers I can handle. It’s the clamor and din of an intense storm that get me. So Jesus could well have been speaking to me when He asked His disciples, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
Amy Bleuel tried to end her life after years of mistreatment and heartbreak. She was 6 when her parents divorced and her stepmother began abusing her. At 13, she was sexually assaulted and blamed for the crime. At 18, her father committed suicide. Addiction and more personal trauma followed. Yet Amy’s faith in Jesus enabled her to survive. In time, she founded a support group for people with similar struggles—The Semicolon Project. Its message is simple, but powerful: “A semicolon is used when an author could have chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you, and the semicolon is your life.”
I know a couple who share freely about a devastating time in their marriage. But the focus of their story isn’t the hurt or the wounds they inflicted. Instead, they talk about how God used that experience to reveal deep-seated issues that needed to be addressed and dealt with. As a result, they emerged from the painful pruning closer to each other and to Him. Amazingly, they’re grateful for it and the good that has come from it.
Recently, while I shopped for an appliance, a store salesman showed me two models. The less expensive one was a knockoff—a cheap imitation. The other had a sticker affixed attesting to its value and quality. Because it had been vigorously tested to stringent industry standards, I was assured of its safety and reliability.
If I’m hiking and camping out for several days, campfires are vital. And the most important thing I carry with me as I begin each day is a handful of charred sticks from the previous night’s fire. They’re the very best fire starters—no need to find tinder or other sticks. I just spark the charred ends, blow on them, and pile on a few fresh logs.
I recently received news that the cancer I’ve been battling off and on for 12 years has returned for the fifth time. So now my wife and I are prayerfully considering treatment possibilities. The therapy employed last time included a bone marrow transplant. And now with that normally last line of defense crossed, my doctor tells me we’re in “uncharted territory.” My lymphoma has continued to threaten to take my life. That’s why I’m glad I already was dead—but am now alive in Jesus.