As believers, we can sometimes have unrealistic expectations about our lives. When things aren’t going smoothly, there’s a tendency to beat ourselves up about it, or feel that God isn’t answering our prayers because He doesn’t care enough or because we’re doing something wrong.
One of the movies I watched the most often when growing up was Man of La Mancha.1 It seemed that every couple of months, some parent, youth group leader, or teacher decided it was time for a rerun. I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but I do have a soft spot for this film.
I remember memorizing Hebrews 11 as a child, which detailed quite a few gruesome ways to die: “They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.”1
As I was skimming headlines on an online news website, I saw this headline: “He’s a Fighter: Guo Youming Won’t Succumb to Rare Disease.” Intrigued, I clicked on the article and started reading Guo Youming’s incredible story.
As a child, his mother noticed that he walked unsteadily and had frequent falls. His condition worsened until he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age seven.
One of my favorite forms of exercise is weightlifting. I’m no bodybuilder; I just do it to stay toned and keep in shape. I also find it interesting how akin weightlifting can be to our spiritual growth.
In our “spiritual weightlifting,” we have a truly awesome trainer. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” To me, the “yoke” is symbolic of anything that strengthens and exercises our faith and Christian walk. Jesus goes on to promise right after that, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”1
On my second day on the job, my new supervisor handed me his laptop: “I need you to upgrade this to the latest Web-based operating system.”
I was in a foreign country, surrounded by coworkers speaking a foreign language, and as a junior IT technician, I was finding it challenging to familiarize myself with the new work environment, understand foreign technical terms, and handle the inevitable problems that exceeded my level of experience.
I was sitting in the car inside a parking lot, taking a moment to think about changes in my life and work. It felt like I had hit a plateau, and I was honestly a little worried.
Suddenly a man popped up next to my window. Short, straggly, and with an air of boundless cheer, he greeted me warmly. I was a little surprised, and even more cautious. Crime is rampant in South Africa, and there are plenty of opportunists looking for an easy mark.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land called Uz, there was a guy named Job. He was definitely one of the best guys around. He feared God and avoided evil. He was generous, kind, hardworking—overall, a good, godly man.1
Not only was Job a good guy, he also had a pretty great life. He had money, land, livestock, and servants. He had a wife and ten children.2 He was healthy. He was a respected figure in the community and had friends everywhere. Everyone knew who Job was.3
I have such a clear memory of it. I woke up early on a summer morning and looked outside to see only white. I rubbed my eyes, thinking there was something wrong with them, then decided to explore. I stepped out onto the porch and down the steps and was amazed to feel like I was in the middle of a cloud. I walked a few feet and spun around, then I realized that I didn’t know where I was. I was only steps from the porch, but I didn’t know which way it lay.
The story of the three little pigs begins with the piglets being sent out into the world to “seek their fortune.” The first little pig builds a house of straw, but a wolf blows it down. The second pig builds a house of sticks with the same result. Each exchange between the wolf and the pigs features the ringing proverbial phrase: