After months of intense stress at my job, as well as a busy season with family and ministry, I was exhausted—and more than just physically. Reflecting on the prior six months, I realized that, although I had tried to be consistent in my work ethic, I didn’t consistently take time to rest. Responsibility is an important part of life, but disorder sets in when responsibilities become the chain holding us captive to self-reliance.
“Would you say ‘stay’ when God says ‘go’?” Eliza Davis George asked the leaders of the Texas Baptist Convention in 1913. Two years earlier this woman, a daughter of former slaves, was called by God to be a missionary to Africa. Because she was an African-American woman, however, the leaders discouraged her from going, even publicly humiliating her. Yet, buoyed by prayer, Eliza eventually sailed to Liberia. And thousands of villagers learned about Jesus during her years there. The legacy of her work continues today.
It’s been said that more is caught than taught. That was true for my siblings and I as we witnessed our parents caring for their parents. My grandmothers, both widows, lived in homes adjacent to our own—purchased by my father and mother. And in time, a grandmother’s sister-in-law also came to live in our little community. All three were doted on by Mom and Dad.
An article titled “Jacob and Our Wrestling Match with God” reflects on the significance of God changing Jacob’s name, arguing that the name change points to a character transformation. “Jacob,” which means “crooked,” becomes “Israel,” which likely means “One who wrestles with God [and] One who is straight (direct, honest) with God.”
Near the epic conclusion of Tolkien’s Return of the King, Frodo stands on the threshold of destroying the “One Ring of Power.” All he has to do is throw it into the consuming fires of Mount Doom. But the hobbit can’t do it. He holds on to the ring, powerless to let go despite the ring’s destructive power.
Poet Carl Sandburg has said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” This thought rings true for many of us. Despite the diapers, frequent feedings, and sleepless nights, infants give renewed hope for the future.
After a failure, shame can cling to us like the smell of rancid garbage. Perhaps at the end of the day we look back at what happened and hang our heads with regret. That conversation with a friend when we talked too much about ourselves. That underhanded dig. That time we lost our temper with someone we were supposed to be caring for. We’ve done wrong, and we’re ashamed.
I felt like quitting. I’d given all I had, and it wasn’t enough. I’d failed, and I didn’t feel like trying again. I wanted to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep until forever. How could I possibly keep going?
Andy Searles, a pastor and sports chaplain, recently gave a group of friends and me some wise food for thought. He said, “In our interactions we are always promoting or reflecting something—perhaps our values, our past, our hopes, or even ourselves. One of the primary purposes for those who claim to follow Jesus is to ‘promote’ and ‘reflect’ that which is ‘wholesome’ (Titus 2:1). We promote the love of God found in Jesus Christ and we reflect by letting this love shine through us into a dark world.”
It’s easy to downplay how traumatic a broken heart can be. But the reality is that being rejected by another person can have a profoundly negative impact on the well-being of a person. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states that in the two months following a breakup, 40 percent of those affected are clinically depressed, and 12 percent moderately or severely so. When we’re rejected, it’s hard not to feel unimportant and unloved.
When the radio station I worked for relocated, I was suddenly out of a job. Although qualified as a teacher, hosting radio shows had felt like a better fit and it was all I’d done since graduating. When I couldn’t find employment back on-air, however, I returned to the classroom. It was difficult. I felt out of my depth, and the experience humbled me. But although the adjustment was challenging, I’m convinced the skills I gained in the classroom prepared me for my next job—back in radio with a national broadcaster.
Dr. Jamie Aten, a cancer survivor who researches how people respond to trauma, intimated that when going through adversity, perspective is everything. After Superstorm Sandy ravaged Seaside Heights, New Jersey (USA), one of Aten’s colleagues was deployed to help with relief efforts. She met a man whose roof had been blown away by the strong winds. Instead of wallowing in pessimism, the man gave some surprisingly optimistic advice: “Sometimes, you have to lose the roof to see the stars.” This man chose to see joyful meaning even in a great hardship.
Years ago, a family member who suffers from bipolar disorder had an extreme psychotic break. The manic episode led to job loss, jail time, and homelessness. For two months, I was on the phone with social workers, law enforcement officers, friends, and family members, trying to figure out how to help him. I even contacted my family member’s church. But no one there could direct me to helpful resources.
What makes you angry? A traffic jam, stubbed toe, disrespectful slight, someone who didn’t keep an appointment with you, or a surprise assignment that will take all night? Anger is emotional frustration. It often arises when our path is blocked, when someone or something is standing in our way.
When our pastor was a young man, he accidentally defaced a much-loved dining room table. Beautifully crafted, it had been in the family for generations, but it was left with an ugly mark when he accidentally placed a piping-hot dish directly on it. Although his parents forgave him, he was overcome with shame. Years later when he saw an ad for a furniture repair specialist, he got the table fixed. Although he’d been forgiven, the sting of shame only faded once the mark on the table had been removed by the skillful hand of a master.