Many years ago, my pastor was talking with a church youth group about “masks.” He asked the students to state what God would see under their masks, should they choose to remove them. What was under their façades? Most gave superficial answers, but one, a senior in high school, had a much more profound response. She had experienced a painful life that included a suicide attempt and had found trouble nearly everywhere she went. Quietly she said, “I think God would see brokenness, but he would also see beauty.”
The movie Deepwater Horizon depicts the true events of a tragic oil rig explosion that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. The sudden underwater eruption killed eleven crewmembers and created a massive oil spill.
Joni Eareckson Tada, a world-renowned artist, author, and speaker, became a quadriplegic as the result of an accident in 1967. She admits that every morning she wakes up tired and convinced that she can’t face another day with quadriplegia. But she takes her weakness to God, seeking His grace, and continues to serve others—her joy in Jesus radiating through her smile.
My friend Phil began chemo treatments in December 2016 for an aggressive form of lymphoma cancer. By God’s grace, he’d been prepared for this challenge in many ways. His wife had battled cancer several years before, and he had seen me go through several treatments in my own battle with an aggressive lymphoma. He had also just changed jobs, and the benefits and community support there were just what the doctor ordered. Most of all, he had been enjoying deep relationship with God.
A poignant love story was told in an August 2016 New York Times article. The title of the article, “I Have No Choice but to Keep Looking,” reflects the tenacious affections of a Japanese man who was still exploring the ocean floor for the body of his wife who died during a devastating tsunami in 2011. After spending two and a half years looking in and around their home city, he took scuba diving lessons and began searching the ocean floor for Yuko’s remains in 2013. Though the darkness of tragedy had enveloped his life, he continued seeking to find the one he deeply loved.
Susan had suffered one disappointment after another, and she was feeling disillusioned with God. She asked me and another friend to pray with her, and we gladly did. I’ll never forget my friend’s prayer, “Lord, let Susan know You love her—that You see her.” The next day Susan thanked us for our prayers. She said she’d been feeling invisible, and our prayers helped her to feel visible again. She knew afresh that God saw her.
The World in Crisis, and No Genius in Sight” read an editorial headline of The Wall Street Journal in July 2016. The article was written against the backdrop of a world watching to see who would win the presidential election in the US; investors and economists speculating the impact of Brexit (the UK’s exit from the European Union) on the world’s economy; the dark cloud of terrorism looming over Europe; and waves of refugees looking for safe haven.
In college, I had the, ahem, joy of taking a class about the history of the English language. The professor would ramble on and on about his life and all kinds of odd facts during his lectures. We listened intently, however, because his tests were famously difficult. He didn’t simply ask us to recall facts, he required us to think differently. The questions were designed to ensure that we could apply our knowledge in unique ways.
My dog has been trained to always come back to me the instant I call or whistle. It’s taken a lot of work to get this response. And now he consistently listens for me and responds immediately—no matter what distraction is vying for his attention. Since I can trust him, I’m able to take him off his leash and let him run around and explore the fields and woodlands. In short, because he’s been properly trained and can be trusted even when facing temptation, he can enjoy his freedom.
A chrysalis was hanging from a branch. Inside, a butterfly seemed to be struggling. Curious to witness its emergence, an observer waited. Time passed, however, and the insect was still trapped in its self-made prison. So the person made a small tear in the chrysalis—hoping to relieve the butterfly’s struggle and suffering. It soon died, for the struggle to be free is essential to making a butterfly strong enough to survive. Without adversity, it won’t achieve maturity.
On the fourth Thursday in November, US citizens celebrate Thanksgiving Day. History reveals that for the first few years after the English pilgrims made their home in the New World, they were beset by famine and cold—surviving only through the assistance of friendly Native Americans. And so when they were finally able to have a plentiful harvest in 1621, they celebrated Thanksgiving as a way of remembering both the blessings and the hardships they’d endured.
On New Year’s Eve, Brittany was working hard at her restaurant job when she suddenly went into labor. Her son was the first baby born in her city that year, but that wasn’t the most remarkable thing about the birth. According to Brittany, neither she nor her husband had any idea she was pregnant. The baby was a surprise!
I long for the cold embrace of death,” tweeted my friend’s teenage son—feigning mock despair. Apparently his second-hour high school orchestra class was dragging on too long. So he put into practice what he had learned in his first-hour class: creative writing.
I do not enjoy being at a loss for words. I feel helpless when I can’t offer comfort to someone who’s hurting. Facing unexpected circumstances with a loved one is difficult enough, but sometimes we feel powerless in not being able to answer their question, “Why?” In our desperation, we rifle through our thoughts in an attempt to at least ease their pain. But those who’ve been through deep waters of trial can attest that the silence of a friend is more golden than misspoken words, especially when the attempt to form answers only produces more pain.