This isn’t an easy post for me to write. It means reflecting on some of the darkest evil plaguing our world today: terrorism. But a recent encounter allowed me to see more clearly the power of God’s sustaining Word—even amidst terror caused by evil actions.
Here in Britain, the houses of famous people are often commemorated with a small blue plaque. On a house in my town of Oxford reads one such sign: “C. S. LEWIS, Scholar and Author, lived here 1930–1963.” Many contemporary British writers, scientists, politicians, and others dream of having a blue plaque on their house one day to commemorate their lives.
As a child, I was told that I should put my hands together and close my eyes to pray. So I used to scrunch up my eyes and clench my fingers together to be even more earnest as I asked God for the things on my heart. The harder I worked at praying this way, the more God would answer—or so I thought!
The line between victory and defeat can be quite slim. Did the winning shot leave his hands before the buzzer sounded? Did the goalie deflect the ball early enough or did it slip across the line? Relieved victors often say “a win is a win,” but they realize the contest could have gone either way.
On beaches around the globe, you can find people sporting shorts, flip-flops, and headphones as they comb the seashore with metal detectors. While many sun-lovers return from a day at the beach with a tan and a few seashells, these modern-day treasure hunters often bring back something more valuable—gold, mostly in the form of lost jewelry.
As I watched the news of a commercial flight that had been downed by a missile last year, my heart sank. Why would people wantonly take the lives of 298 people? Why? This small, three-letter word sits at the root of all our experiences with pain and suffering. It lingers, and sometimes even haunts to the point where faith and understanding collide in crisis.
How much money does a person have to make to be a success? How many awards must an individual receive in order to be deemed successful? According to New York Times columnist David Brooks, even if you achieve Hall of Fame success status like some great athletes, it might not be enough. Brooks said some athletes simply can’t see past themselves:
My colleagues and I were eating dinner with an author when she posed this question: “What do you like least about your job?” I had been working in publishing for several years, and instantly I knew my answer. “I don’t like crushing people’s dreams,” I said. “I don’t like telling them that their manuscript ‘doesn’t meet our needs.’ ”
One time when I was high up a mountain in Norway, God chose to rescue me from an untimely death. At the time it felt anything but pleasant, but God knew that I was in spiritual bondage and that I needed to be saved—largely from myself. He was aware that I was spiritually dead and needed to wake up to my predicament. So he sent a series of extremely uncomfortable events my way in order that I might see what I truly needed—Him!
Near the closing of the film Forrest Gump, Forrest is standing alone at the foot of the grave of his dearly beloved Jenny: “You died on a Saturday morning. And I had you placed here under our tree. . . . Momma always said dyin’ was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t.”
The Bible presents many suffering people who were miraculously healed in response to prayers. Miriam was healed of leprosy (Numbers 12:1-15). King Hezekiah, who was terminally ill, was given 15 years more to live (2 Kings 20:1-7). Job suffered too (Job 2:7)—enduring months of it before he was restored (Job 42:10).
After helping his team win American pro football’s 2014 Super Bowl, a cornerback declared in a post-game interview that he was the best player at his position, and opposing teams should send only their best players against him. His comments sparked a national discussion on the role of courtesy in sports. Although his remarks offended some people, you can’t deny that he’s supremely confident in his abilities.
A few months after his son’s tragic death, my friend told me that people who had been close were now avoiding him and his family. He said it was as if people no longer wanted to be around them. I asked him why he thought the poor comforters were acting this way. His answer troubled me, for I knew it was the hard truth: “When people don’t feel they can fix a situation, they try to pretend it’s not there. They feel embarrassed.”
In 2012, thanks to a rapper named Drake and the supercharged vehicle of social media, “YOLO” became a popular acronym. It stands for “You Only Live Once.” Though the message of YOLO is test the limits, it became a justification to live life irresponsibly. The answer to drunk driving, parking illegally, disrespecting parents, and missing class was simply YOLO. Its underlying meaning is that my life is mine and I get to live it how I want to.
I remember when someone on our church ministry team responded with disbelief upon discovering that my husband and I have disagreements. But I didn’t back away from sharing that we—like any family—had to work through conflict to relate better. Being spiritually mature doesn’t mean we’re exempt from challenges or failure. And it also means being honest, not trying to hide behind a squeaky clean façade.