After an intense period of work a few months back, I had been looking forward to taking some time off. I knew I needed to think about my future and plans in conjunction with changes around me that would affect my career and living situation, but I also looked forward to sinking my teeth into a personal project that I had been excited about for months but had been too busy to devote much time to. I felt passionate about this project and hoped it would be a starting point toward realizing some of my dreams and goals.
I don’t know what triggered what came next. Perhaps I had overdone physically and strained my already fragile state of health, but I suddenly became very ill. Crippling exhaustion was the dominant problem. The fatigue I suffered from was so deep and overwhelming that on a bad day the kind of decisions I faced were things like, “Do I wash my laundry today, or do I wash my hair?” I simply didn’t have the energy to do both, let alone anything more.
Sometimes, at the most unexpected times, we get little revelations that clarify perspective, give insight, and recharge our faith. I got one of those the other day.
It had been a long few months financially speaking, and now our vehicle was in the repair shop. As I waited for my husband to call me with the cost estimate, I asked God why this was happening to us now, of all times. “We’re already struggling,” I pleaded. “How can we afford an expensive repair on our vehicle?”
The prisoner dictated a letter to some of his dearest friends hundreds of miles away in another country. He told them that he was in chains—most likely chained to his jailer, as that was the custom of the time. Ironically, he had previously been in jail in the city in which his friends lived.1 On that occasion he had been beaten and imprisoned—illegally, it turned out—in the city’s most secure cell. He was considered an atheist2 and a rabble-rouser, and was well-known to authorities throughout the empire who were glad to get him off the streets whenever they could.
It hadn't always been that way. There had been a time when he was dedicated to enforcing the law. He had even been an officially sanctioned vigilante who went about brutally clearing his area of miscreants, men, women, and children alike.3 That had been a task he relished. But that had been long ago. Now he was on the other side of the fence, and his former colleagues were complicit in his censure and imprisonment.
Stress is one of the big "joy killers" that God wants to help us minimize. Stress makes it difficult to operate and is a cause of terrible unhappiness, illness, and even death. According to one news article that I read, between 75 and 90 percent of doctor visits in developed countries could be directly or indirectly traced back to stress.
Faith is an antidote for stress. Faith and trust that everything is in God’s hands, that He is in control, and that He is able to bring about something good from even the worst situations, automatically eliminates a lot of stress from our lives.
As the car kept winding up, up, up, I couldn't help but wonder if our friend's house had been built on the very top of the mountain. Darkness had fallen by the time my sister, two friends, and I got to our destination, but even at night the mountains seemed alive.
Our friend led us up a flight of dark and wobbly steps to the balcony, where we gasped at the panorama. Before us was the most beautiful view of the city of Iskenderun, Turkey, far below. Twinkling lights of all colors lined the Mediterranean, as though an angel had scooped up a ladle of stars and flung them across the darkness.
Have you ever come across a construction site where the workers were laboriously laying a tile floor—one of those mosaic floors with thousands of tiny tiles that create a picture when finished? While it’s being put in place, the picture isn’t clearly visible because the workers use grout to fill the spaces between the tiles, and the grout leaves a heavy gray film over their work that hides the beauty of what they’ve done. But then, once the grout between the tiles is dry, the film is washed off and the picture is revealed.
That’s similar to how God works in our lives. In His infinite wisdom and all-encompassing love, He understands exactly what we need and goes to great lengths, with intricate detail, to provide those things.
A friend was showing me a photo that he took at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden—a large park in the middle of bustling Tokyo. It showed a brilliant blue sky with green trees framing it. When I complimented him on a beautiful shot, my friend looked amused. “Actually, you’re looking at it upside down. This is the reflection of the sky on the lake.”
I looked closer and saw that he was right. What I had thought was scenery was actually its reflection on the lake’s surface, almost like an optical illusion. I was amazed at how clearly the sky and surroundings were reflected in the still water. It made me think how wonderful it would be if my life could so perfectly reflect heaven’s peace and stillness.
The ability to look on the bright side is a gift. It enhances your happy times and makes the difficult times more bearable. It's the gateway to greater joy, which is one of the many treasures you found when you found Me. Love, faith, peace, joy—these and many more are My gifts to sustain and inspire you.
I want you to partake of My full joy,1 but there is something you must do before this can happen: You must accept who and what you are and believe that you were created this way for a wonderful purpose, that you were endowed with a unique set of gifts, talents, and attributes that will help you find and fill the special place in this world that only you can fill.
There is an adage, "Good is the enemy of best" The point is that settling for something that is merely good may mean that something better is never attained. It seems to be a cultural imperative these days that we never settle for less than what we believe will prove to be the absolute best for us. But I'm coming to a different conclusion.
In my personal quest for the best possible outcome in each and every situation, I’m seeing that I have sometimes passed up some good possibilities; because I was worried that just around that next corner could be what I really, really, really wanted, I failed to take advantage of the opportunity at hand. In such cases, it seems to me that “best” is really the enemy of “good.” Going for the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow caused me to miss the beauty of the rainbow. I would probably be happier if I embraced the journey, rather than always being fixated on reaching my next goal.
It was a particularly hot, muggy summer day, and Jeffrey and I had already been traveling for a few hours when we plopped down in a stuffy bus station waiting room in northern Italy. "Did I really have to come?" he muttered.
How had I gotten this idea? Dragging a 14-year-old away from his friends to visit his grandparents—not exactly a teenager’s idea of fun!
We had another hour before we needed to catch the bus that would take us the rest of the way, and I didn’t know which was worse—the stale air in the waiting room or the thick air between us. “Would you like some ice cream?” I asked.