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.
“If we can climb this mountain, there’s nothing we can’t overcome together!”
I remember my dad struggling to smile and look hopeful as he pointed toward a rocky mountain about 100 feet from the highway. I was 13, and my dad, my older brother, and I were driving through the scorching rocky deserts of Mexico back to the United States to take care of some business.
Any mother who’s tried to get her toddler to sit still long enough to finish a mealcan tell you about children’s short attention spans, but there are also moments when they’re driven to learn a new skill, such as picking up a small object with chubby little fingers, or crawling, or walking. These new skills require a huge amount of concentration and effort—and a great deal of time, compared to the child’s short life up to that point. They also put demands on muscles that are just beginning to learn coordination and are barely strong enough to sustain the child’s weight.
I’d been going through a few tough weeks, when I began questioning my faith. Not questioning God, but questioning how much faith I had to face difficulties. I’d also been concerned about growing older, berating myself for becoming such a wimp, not able to keep up as I used to. So I gratefully accepted an invitation from my daughter Madi to go hiking in a place called Enchanted Rock.
Recently two friends got in touch to let me know about some pretty major events that were happening in their lives. First, Ina called to share that her daughter had tested positive after being leukemia-free for three years. She had just received the heartbreaking news and was overwrought with emotion when she called.
Later that same week, Susan emailed me to say that her husband had unexpectedly been laid off. She was worried that they might have to give up their new house since they were depending on his salary to make the payments.
Before jumping into the day to tackle a long to-do list, I stopped for a half hour of devotional reading, prayer, and reflection. My Bible fell open to Hebrews 11, which is also called the Faith Chapter. As I read through the amazing miracles faith had wrought throughout the ages, I realized that many of these accounts fit into my life as well. Since I had just turned 60, I spent some time reflecting back on the road of faith I have traveled so far, and I came up with my own Faith Chapter:
Everyone has times in their past that they look upon as “dark nights”—tragedies or difficulties that were largely beyond their control and sometimes the direct result of other people’s wrong choices or unloving actions. How people react to those wrongs can determine whether they become bitter or better for them.
A missionary’s husband passed away at the age of 37, leaving her with seven children aged seven months to 14 years old. Her husband was in the process of emigrating from Argentina to Brazil, so she received no widow pension from either country. She lived in Foz do Iguaçu, a city in the border zone between Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. Her sisters offered to help raise some of her children, but she decided to keep the family together.