When I look back at the crossroads in my life—times when things seemed to have taken a wrong turn or my plans and goals were dealt a severe blow—I realize that my faith played a major role and helped me to weather the adverse circumstances and challenges.
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was known as a master trickster and the most cunning of men. Eventually, the gods were so displeased with his craftiness and deceitfulness that they condemned him in the afterlife to push a huge boulder up a steep hill. The boulder was enchanted so that Sisyphus has never been able to complete the task: whenever he nears the top, the boulder always rolls back down, over and over again, endlessly, for all eternity.
I wish you could meet three people who each made a big impression on me this past year. The first was a waiter’s assistant who cleared my table from his wheelchair with such outgoing charm that I wasn’t a bit surprised when the manager told me on my way out that he considered this young man to be his most valuable employee. “I think more people come back for him than for the food,” the manager joked.
Just before Christmas a few years ago, I was involved in a car accident that almost took my life. I sustained a spinal cord injury to my T4 vertebra, leaving me paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down, and confined to a wheelchair.
“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”1 “The Lord is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide.”2
If you feel overwhelmed, climb up on the Rock. You have Me, the Rock, and you can rest in My ability to keep you through anything that threatens to overwhelm you. When you feel weak because of your cares and burdens, when you feel depression threaten to blacken your thoughts and hang a feeling of despair over you, you can climb up on the Rock and rest in My grace.
I first learned about Fu-Hua Chuang when my family and I watched a documentary that featured several severely disabled yet talented young people. I was struck by the radiant smile that seemed to illuminate her whole being, reflecting the inner beauty of her soul.
The voices seemed muffled as I slowly woke out of the anesthesia following a medical procedure on my back.
I heard the doctor’s gloomy prognosis: “She might not be able to live a normal life and certainly she shouldn’t have any children with a serious back condition like this.”
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.1
I started walking away from what I knew God was calling me to a few months ago. I think I just grew tired of striving.
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 also been jailed 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.
A friend of mine was showing me the large number of old cucumbers she was planning to preserve in salt.
“Are old cucumbers all right to eat?” I asked.
“These are quite dried out, but they’ll be great to pickle!” she replied knowledgeably. For my busy friend, having pickled cucumbers to supplement on-the-go meals is convenient and appreciated.