Since the early days of human existence it’s been a constant foe. Recently it came calling in a friend’s life as she lamented her children not walking with Jesus. Another friend bemoaned the death of what had been a loving marriage. A family member looked at me with teary eyes, trying to form words that couldn’t come due to dementia. Another family member, deep in the throes of grief because of her father’s death, said softly, “I can’t believe he’s gone.”
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?
Their faces are wrung with anguish. Bloodied survivors of a terrorist attack stumble out of their Kenyan campus. German families grimly gather at a crash site in the French Alps. Nepalese parents dig through rubble, desperately calling the name of their lost child. As long as we live in a fallen world, humans will have moments when it seems we can’t go on.
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.”
In just a few short hours, my husband and I learned that— although our lives were soon to be united in marriage— we wouldn’t walk identical paths. We had been dating for over a year when each of our fathers entered the hospital on the same day, though in two different facilities. One man breathed raggedly in his final stages of cancer; the other lay bleeding internally on the operating table after an open-heart procedure—two lives hovering between heaven and earth. The next day, one remained; the other did not.
So what did Jesus look like? Did he resemble actor James Caviezel who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? Probably not. Something like Warner Sallman’s famous portrait Head of Christ? Uh, no—don’t think so.
During the closing seconds of an American football game, the referee had to make a very difficult, game-deciding call. His decision resulted in one team winning and the other facing the bitter sting of a loss. Furious fans from the losing team ridiculed and threatened the ref for days and weeks. In time he experienced panic attacks and even considered suicide. Doctors diagnosed his condition as post-traumatic stress disorder.
My wife, Merryn, and I spent last Christmas on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. With its snow-capped mountains and vivid landscape, it’s a truly beautiful place! One moment we drove through snowstorms, the next we saw double rainbows appear from end to end. To me, Mull is a place of fairytales.
Kellie Haddock is a courageous woman I’ve known of and admired for more than a decade. In 2004, I first read the blog she penned following a tragic car accident that took the life of her husband and left her baby, Eli, with permanent injuries.
Several days after my wife had open-heart surgery, a friend asked me if there was anything I needed. I jokingly told him that it would be great if he could finish writing an Our Daily Journey devotional for me that was due later that day. My buddy, who happens to be a fellow ODJ author, enthusiastically offered to give me feedback on the piece I was working on—until he remembered that he didn’t actually have the time to do it! His swamped schedule simply had no margin.
Following a tumultuous season in her life, Bethany Haley Williams battled with shame and brokenness. The journey was difficult, but through Jesus she experienced healing that transformed her life.
Stephen Crane’s story “The Open Boat” tells the tale of four men attempting to survive in a lifeboat at sea. One of the men ironically reflected on a poem he had read as a schoolboy about a soldier fighting in Algiers. The man realized that “he had never considered it his affair that a soldier of the Legion lay dying in Algiers, nor had it appeared to him as a matter for sorrow. It was less to him than breaking of a pencil’s point.” He hadn’t felt compassion for the soldier—until now.
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.
Kim Nguyen was preparing for her doctoral exams in Old Testament when she learned that she would need surgery on her eyes. She should have recovered in 2 weeks, but 6 months later she still couldn’t see. She feared that her dream of teaching the Bible was slipping away. How could she write her dissertation if she couldn’t see? How would she find work to pay back her student loans?
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.