I grew up in the era of black-and-white television (1950s), when Westerns were the most popular action genre. There were no computer graphics or other hi-tech special effects in shows like The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, and Wanted: Dead or Alive—and no cars for the now-obligatory car chase. Instead, the action often peaked when a stagecoach or train was attacked by bandits in black hats (to distinguish them from the white-hatted good guys). Horses pulling a heavy stagecoach didn’t stand a chance of outrunning bandits on horseback, but trains did. As the music reached a crescendo, the tension mounted and the scene alternated between the hero holding the bad guys at bay, the engineer gritting his teeth, and the fireman frantically shoveling coal into the furnace that powered the train’s steam engine. The more coal the fireman could pile on, the hotter the fire and the faster the train would go. As long as there was coal to feed the fire, there was hope.
We all get sick from time to time. When that happens, what we choose to do about it has a direct bearing on how quickly and fully we recover. If it’s only a common cold, getting extra rest and waiting it out may be enough, but more serious illnesses generally require more from us. By the time we are adults, we’ve learned to recognize when something isn’t right in our bodies, and we pay attention to those warning signs. We may not know what they are symptoms of, but we know that our condition will likely worsen unless we get it diagnosed and do something about it. If we’re too proud to admit we’re sick and need help, or if we’re lackadaisical and fail to take action, we inevitably suffer more in the long run. Pain has taught us to pay attention to our health, to do what we can to stay healthy, and to get help when we do get sick.
The need for healing, great or small, at some time or another, is universal. That’s just a fact of life. And that’s probably why Jesus spent so much of His time on earth healing the sick. The four Gospels are full of accounts of miracles of healing that Jesus performed—lepers were cleansed, the blind received sight, the mute talked, the lame walked, and the dead were raised to life again. “Great multitudes followed Him,” we are told, and He was “moved with compassion” and “healed them all.”1
Twenty-five years ago I came across a gem of wisdom that was to save my sanity. The thing that amazes me now is how easily I could have missed it. I was feeling happy and fulfilled at the time, satisfied with my life and where it seemed to be taking me. I could have brushed it aside as not applying to me, but I was soon glad I hadn’t. Things took an unexpected downward turn, I lost my job and the security it had provided, and those words became a reference point that helped me get through the next few difficult months.
Few events capture the world’s attention like the World Cup does every four years. The 2006 final attracted an estimated television audience of 715 million, and the entire process, including qualifying and elimination rounds, a total of over 26 billion—the equivalent of nearly four views for every person in the world. Even those who normally pay little or no attention to sports are drawn in when Cup results are front-page news.
Life is full of problems—sickness, accidents, financial problems, family problems, loss of loved ones, and on and on the list goes. “Hasn’t there been some sort of mistake here?” we ask. “If God truly is love, as the Bible says in 1 John 4:8, and if He truly cares for us like a father, as the Bible says many times, then why all these problems?”
Have you ever noticed how some people can stay afloat when engulfed in troubles and hardships, while others sink to the bottom? What sets the swimmers apart from the sinkers? From what I’ve seen, the biggest factor seems to be faith in God’s love. When those who understand how much God loves them find themselves in over their heads, they know He won’t let them drown. So, unlike those who don’t have such faith, they don’t wear themselves out struggling just to keep their heads above water—or worse, panic and go down all the quicker. Buoyed by their faith, the swimmers can concentrate their energy on getting to solid ground.
There is a common force that drives most of us: we want to be successful. Regardless of who we are or what our specific goals may be, we want the security and comfort that material success provides, as well as the satisfaction of knowing that our lives are turning out well and count for something.
If we all want the same basic thing, why then are some people so much more successful than others? Circumstances alone aren’t the deciding factor, because some people succeed despite incredibly difficult circumstances. Neither is success determined by natural ability alone, because many gifted people fail, while others who seem less likely to succeed do.