I spent my birthday this year at a conference with my husband and some friends. At the end of the conference, I enjoyed taking some time to talk with an acquaintance that is a year younger than I am. As we chatted, he said, “The older I get, the more I realize I haven’t accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish by now.” Then he wistfully remarked, “I may never accomplish it.”
A chrysalis was hanging from a branch. Inside, a butterfly seemed to be struggling. Curious to witness its emergence, an observer waited. Time passed, however, and the insect was still trapped in its self-made prison. So the person made a small tear in the chrysalis—hoping to relieve the butterfly’s struggle and suffering. It soon died, for the struggle to be free is essential to making a butterfly strong enough to survive. Without adversity, it won’t achieve maturity.
When asked which author he would choose to write his life’s story, author and activist Wendell Berry answered: “A horrible thought. Nobody. As the only person who ever has lived my life, I know that most of it can never be documented, is beyond writing and beyond words.”
If you were given an extra day each week, how would you use it? To read books, volunteer with a charity, perhaps catch up on sleep? In truth, I’d probably spend that extra day working. While I enjoy what I do, I don’t think that’s the healthiest of confessions.
For two and a half years, a visit to my wife’s oncologist was part of our weekly routine. But one visit was different. In a discernably subdued tone, he told us that he was going to stop her treatment. The chemo was no longer effective. My wife had come to the final stage of her fight against a fast-growing, aggressive cancer.
In 2015, Essena O’Neill dropped out of social media. After building a popular persona on Instagram (700,000 followers) and YouTube (260,000 subscribers), she wrote: “I spent five years wishing I was this perfect person online and I spent three years every day working really hard at it.” She went on to say that at age 19 she realized her aspirations were misguided, stating, “I think the reality is quite sad.” So Essena left social media behind. One reason? She wanted to be a better role model for her 14-year-old sister who had also been trying to find meaning and identity in projecting a perfect image.
Australian native Nick Vujicic understands a magnificent truth: We do not find our value in our capabilities. Born without arms or legs, Nick has learned not merely to cope with his challenges, but to permit God to use them for unimaginable good. He says, “God has given me the strength to surmount what others might call impossible.” As Nick likes to say, “God can use a life without limbs to show the world how to live a life without limits.”
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.
A friend who worked for a Christian organization was known for his perfectionistic work habits. One day as he was finishing some work on a backhoe, a large piece of excavating equipment, he began preparing to paint its large metal bucket. This was an unnecessary part of the job, as the fresh paint would scrape off as soon as the backhoe began digging into rocky soil. As my friend raised his spray gun for the first coat, his boss called to him, “Don’t paint the bucket!”
My wife and I used to live in a small flat on the sixth floor of an apartment block. We loved its balcony views and simplicity. And there was no yard work to do! But our little home had its problems, one in particular—a limited power supply.
After learning that a 7-year-old boy dying of leukemia wanted to be a police officer, several members of the Arizona Police made every effort to make his wish come true. Just days before he died, they made him an honorary officer—including his own law enforcement hat and junior-sized police uniform. That one wish launched a movement. Make-A-Wish, an international organization that grants the wishes of seriously ill children, was established in 1980.
One of my favorite hymns is When We See Christ. The chorus declares how it will be worth every struggle and challenge we encounter in life when we see Jesus face-to-face. And with that day in view, we can courageously live for Him today!
The Week magazine features a “What’s Next?” column based on current events. In a recent issue they asked readers to submit answers to a question based on this comment from chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” The question was: “What would be a good name for a theme park ride based on the typical American’s body?”
The woman and her daughter approached me after I had spoken on the way God can transform pain into something good. The daughter, Kate, was too distraught to talk, so her mother spoke for her.
A wise man once said, “Conflict is never about what’s happening on the surface—there’s always much more at stake.” Chances are that Job would have agreed with that statement. He found himself thrust suddenly and forcefully into heartbreak of catastrophic proportions. His livestock, fields, servants, and children were all destroyed in one day.