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.”
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.
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” —Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
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?
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.
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?
As I watched the news of a commercial flight that had been downed by a missile last year, my heart sank. Why would people wantonly take the lives of 298 people? Why? This small, three-letter word sits at the root of all our experiences with pain and suffering. It lingers, and sometimes even haunts to the point where faith and understanding collide in crisis.
US President Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a letter. Later, Stanton told the President he was ready to send the strongly worded letter. Lincoln said, “You don’t want to send that letter. . . . Put it in the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter, and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.”
The memory is vivid. My wife Merryn and I sat in emotional pain, talking. “If this really is our last chance to have a baby and it doesn’t happen,” Merryn said, “I need something else.” We’d spent the past decade trying everything to start a family—IVF treatment, healing prayer, adoption—all without success. We now awaited the result of one final IVF round. “If it doesn’t happen,” she said, her face downcast, “I have to have something else to look forward to.”
The alarm clock rang promptly at 7 in the morning. Sophie woke up with a bad headache, but she thought nothing of it. She pushed away the covers and got out of bed. Suddenly, as a stroke devastated her brain, darkness descended and she collapsed to the floor. Sadly, situations like this one have been a reality for many people over the years.
Redwood trees can grow to incredible heights—some reaching more than 375 feet! Yet most redwoods have a shallow root system that typically burrows less than 10 feet into the ground.
Pay it forward entails the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it by doing something kind for another person—not the original benefactor. In our fallen world, however, we sometimes “pay forward” pain by hurting someone in response to offenses committed against us—perhaps in the past—by a different person.
One of my favorite songs is the 1993 Grammy award-winning Tears in Heaven. It’s an intimate song that Eric Clapton wrote to help him heal from the loss and pain of the accidental death of his 4-year-old son. Rooted in tragedy and grief, Eric expresses the hope of seeing his son again. He wrote of a place beyond this world, a place beyond tears—heaven. This song has touched me deeply. Like Clapton, we face painful, heartbreaking moments in life—times that make us long for the day when we’ll cry no more.