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.”
Sitting on my back porch in the waning daylight, I enjoy watching as patches of gray, red, and blue flit through the air. Busy wings then grow still as the birds alight on my newly acquired feeder. A few years prior, thieving squirrels stymied my efforts to feed these feathered wonders. Moving its location and even oiling the pole was not enough to keep the wily rodents from robbing the birds of the seed. Then, a friend introduced me to a spring-loaded feeder that closes if anything heavier than a bird lands on its ledge.
A strange phenomenon is occurring all around me as I write this article. Tucked into the warm splendor of my niece’s living room, I’m observing ants occasionally crawling and darting about on the walls. Why is this strange? Well, there’s nearly 2 feet of snow outside her home, and it was -19°F a few days ago. So I’ve been wondering, How are these tiny creatures surviving? It appears they’re doing so by sticking together, working together, and dwelling in the warmth found inside the house.
From a Distance,” the 1991 Grammy Song of the Year popularized by Bette Midler, describes what the world looks like from a distance: “From a distance the world looks blue and green . . . there is harmony . . . And no one is in need. And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease . . . We are instruments . . . playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.” The song ends with the lingering refrain: “God is watching us from a distance.”
On October 31, 2003, 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off the North Shore in Hawaii. Bethany survived, but she lost her left arm and more than 60 percent of her blood in the assault.
In December 2013, Australian worship leader Darlene Zschech went for a routine mammogram and was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the turmoil of raw emotions, specialist appointments, and the scans and surgery that followed, she instinctively reached for hope from God’s Word—the Psalms in particular. In January 2014 she Tweeted, “Psalm 91:1-16 in any version; God is so good to us all, cling to His Word and find hope that will never disappoint.”
Senseless violence and dark injustice can make for a steady rain in life—dampening spirits in mists of gray. In the summer of 2013, a 17-year-old from a rough neighborhood jumped in front of his mother to protect her from an attack. The bullet struck and killed him, leaving his mother clutching his lifeless body in front of their home. The boy’s brother, who witnessed the crime, said later, “I lost a big piece of my heart that night.”
Harrison Odjegba Okene had been trapped 100 feet underwater for more than 72 hours. His air and his hope were running thin. The Nigerian was a cook on a tugboat that sank in the Atlantic Ocean in May 2013, leading to the deaths of the 11 other crew members. Harrison, however, found his way to a small cabin with a small, dwindling air pocket where he shivered as temperatures plummeted. Comforted by psalms he had memorized, prayers to God, and memories of his wife, Harrison clung to life. When rescue divers arrived, they pulled four corpses out of the water and assumed Harrison would be the fifth. But when a diver reached for Harrison’s hand, he was surprised when Harrison reached back!
On the occasion of billionaire Ted Turner’s 75th birthday last year, a CNN profile opened with these poignant words: “What will matter most about Ted Turner’s life story when they roll the final credits? That he started the first 24-hour news network? Built a fortune once worth $10 billion? Was Time magazine’s Man of the Year? Received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame? Made The New York Times best-seller list? Maybe it was that time he raced a sailboat faster than anyone else. Or the year his baseball team won the World Series. Impressed yet?”
Life can be difficult. At times, burdens, disappointments, and uncertainties can seem too difficult to bear. Poet Annie Johnson Flint poignantly captured the struggles of life in her poem “One Day at a Time”: