I attended a boarding school in Nigeria where the older students ruled over all of us younger students. Once, I misplaced a bowl that belonged to a rather cranky older student. Having been given the ultimatum to find and return the bowl by the next morning, I crawled into bed with a heart full of dread. I whispered a prayer asking God for help before dropping into a troubled sleep. Imagine my awe the next day when the bowl mysteriously showed up in the student’s drawer!
A non-Christian organization has established a hotline for people who are struggling with spiritual doubts. While the exact goal of this call-in center seems a bit fuzzy, its founder made an interesting observation: “Many people feel isolated or rejected when they begin to ask questions. . . . If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters [for food and fellowship], the hotline project wouldn’t be necessary.”
On the way home from soccer practice last week, my 12-year-old son busily jotted his thoughts onto a notepad he had brought with him. When he finished, he handed it to me and said, “This is what I [created].”
Tiptoeing around construction projects, I joined my husband as he talked with church members working on renovations to our building. As I waited patiently for them to finish, I noticed a little hole in my husband’s glove just below the knuckle of his finger. He explained that the guard on the high-powered grinder had moved while he was using it. The diamonds on his wedding band took the force of the fast-spinning blade. His finger spared, the only signs of the accident were the reduced size of the diamonds and the small hole in his glove.
I had plans for how my life was supposed to work out,” my friend David said. “And when things didn’t go as planned, I became bitter and resentful.” Who can relate to David? I definitely can! Often I find myself imposing my expectations on God as rights, and then sulking when they aren’t realized.
It was with gut-wrenching horror that I watched the video of 21 Coptic Christians being forced to kneel on a Libyan beach before being beheaded by terrorists. Later, I learned that a relative of some of the men who were killed said that many of them cried out the name of Jesus with their dying breath—a testimony to their faith in Him. Though the terrorists had hoped for the opposite effect, they had actually strengthened the faith of the Coptic Church by proving that even imminent death couldn’t snatch away their brothers’ love for Christ!
Waiting in a long line to ride a roller coaster, I considered turning back several times. When it was finally my turn to board, the safety bar in the seat I was to occupy wouldn’t release properly. I was afraid of getting stuck, but I hopped in anyway. When the safety bar came down too tightly on my lap, I felt trapped and scared! I considered waving my hand and asking to be excused from the ride. But an attendant announced over the loudspeaker, “You can scream and you can shout, but there’s no way we’ll let you out.”
According to the American Institute of Stress, stress- related illnesses cost the US economy $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity every year. Forty-four percent of Americans feel more stress than they did 5 years ago. Family relationships, job-related challenges, and even academic studies are a few stressors that weigh citizens down.
Scientists conducted a social experiment with two groups of commuters at a train station. They asked one group to start conversations with their seatmates. They instructed the other group to remain silent. The commuters who talked while traveling said they had a “more positive experience” than those who did not. Initially, commuters believed starting a conversation would be hard, but they found that most people were happily willing to talk.
Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arch communities, has spent his life loving those often ostracized by society. L’Arch creates living communities for those with disabilities or those who, because of their need for intense care, would be institutionalized if they didn’t have such a home. Vanier talks about how the communities are centered around the most basic acts of caring for the physical body—bathing, dressing, and feeding residents who can’t do those things on their own.
Lorenzo Quinn’s 900-pound aluminum sculpture called “Hand of God” features a gigantic open hand with a man seated on the highest part of an upturned palm. The man appears to be troubled and his posture reflects deep discouragement. But the hand that holds him up is much larger than he is.
Look at what you’ve done by becoming a Christian. You’ve deserted the family tradition. Your father feels like a failure. He couldn’t keep the family together.” My mother tried to reason with me to forsake my newfound faith. And I wavered. It pained me to see my parents’ sadness and disappointment. In my collectivism-based culture,group is esteemed greater than the individual. So I thought, By becoming a Christian, did I become a bad child?
In 1977, Chris Bonington and Doug Scott became the first mountain climbers to summit an infamous peak known as The Ogre in Pakistan. During their descent, however, Doug slipped and broke both of his legs. Chris also had a mishap resulting in several broken ribs. Doug, who crawled for 12 days over rocks, snow, and ice to make it back down the mountain, said he did so by focusing on “one feature at a time. A nub of rock, a pinnacle. Get there and then think about the next bit. Because to think about the whole thing was a bit mind-boggling.” Amazingly, both men survived.
It’s winter in New York City. The air temperature hovers just above freezing. A man puts on his wet suit and prepares to ride the waves at Long Beach, an area southeast of Queens where he lives. As he faces the water, he meditates on avoiding danger and prays to the ocean gods. His surfboard—a 9-foot Hawaiian-made job—features a picture of his now-deceased spiritual guru. The man says of the image, “It keeps me centered.”
George Whitfield, the Anglican preacher who was part of the Great Awakening in the American colonies, once said, “Come away, my dear brethren—fly, fly, fly for your lives to Jesus Christ, fly to a bleeding God, fly to a throne of grace . . . beg of God to give you faith, and to enable you to be close with Jesus Christ.” Long before Whitfield encouraged believers to fly to Jesus, the writer of Hebrews encouraged weary believers to approach Him boldly and confidently as their Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14,16).