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.
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.
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:
Recently, two friends, my brother, and I participated in a very special event—the Fisherman’s Friend Strongman Run! This 15 km route includes 30 obstacles of varying difficulty. There’s sticky mud which sucks your feet down rapidly, and you have to keep moving to stay on top. Then there are icy river sections to swim or wade through, testing endurance. Nets, trenches, tires, steep dirt slopes—all good reasons to justify to oneself, I just couldn’t make it. But the fact is, it’s possible.
Life is hard sometimes.
When you’ve worked as hard as you possibly could and yet you failed to make the grade, your dreams remain out of reach, and you feel you just can’t do it anymore, you can feel like giving up.
All of us have probably felt that way at some time or another. Maybe you’ve been in that situation recently. In fact, maybe you feel that way right now.
“Everything is falling apart!” My outburst came one day after a visit to the Kurasini Orphanage in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where our team of volunteers has been working with the staff to raise the children’s living standard. We had begun by improving sanitation in the kitchen and dormitories, and some progress had been made. But it seemed that there were always more things that needed to get done. As the to-do list grew, so did the list of needed materials and supplies. There was also the matter of funding. How would we find enough sponsors to help meet all of these needs?
It’s well known that in fiction, plots along the lines of “Matilda is happy, beautiful, successful, and will live happily-ever-after-forever-and-ever” don’t make the most captivating stories or become bestsellers. Even picture books for children need to involve some kind of tension—an obstacle that the child needs to work through in order to achieve his or her happy ending. Whether it’s a little boy handling his first day of school, or a little girl learning to share her toys, the story isn’t captivating if it starts off perfect.
Two dreams were the start of Joseph’s troubles.
“Listen to this dream,” Joseph told his 11 brothers. “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”
When I was an idealistic fourteen-year-old, I read a biography of David Brainerd. I loved reading about missionaries like David Livingstone, C. T. Studd, and Amy Carmichael. They seemed to have no trouble inspiring devoted converts who made every sacrifice visibly worthwhile. But Brainerd’s story got off to a tragic start. The reason I remember so clearly how old I was when I read about him is because by the time he was my age, he was an orphan. I still had both of my parents, with many happy years left to enjoy both of them.
I discovered the power of forgiveness on a July afternoon in 1976. It was during the Idi Amin regime, when Uganda had come to a standstill—careers, the economy, the infrastructure, education, everything. I was a student at Makerere University and also newly married and expecting a baby.