He considers himself a winner, but some might wonder how he’s come to that conclusion. His body is bruised and scarred from numerous beatings. His life on the road has left its mark too. On top of it all, he’s lost his freedom, and the likelihood of execution is looming over him.1
When I was a child, my father joined a mountain-climbing club where people from all around Rio would meet on Sundays to climb together. Once he had learned the main tracks, he began taking his kids and other teens from the neighborhood up to the many peaks in the area. As I grew up, I realized that life is like a range of mountains, and each one needs to be conquered in a different way.
The Hobbit, a fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a comfort-loving hobbit who is thrust into an unwanted quest for dragon treasure with a wizard and a group of dwarves. On the way, he faces all manner of hardships, from goblins to hostile elves to giant spiders.
We can find inspiration from the life of John Stephen Akhwari, as told in Bud Greenspan’s book 100 Greatest Moments in Olympic History.
When the winner crossed the finish line in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic marathon, the officials and spectators thought that had been the highlight of the race. Then, an hour later, John Stephen Akhwari, a runner from Tanzania, entered the stadium. Bloodied and bandaged from a fall, and with a dislocated knee, he limped painfully.
A couple of years ago, I took an English teaching training course. My first language is Croatian, and I had been working as a professional translator and interpreter for over 20 years, so I spoke English on a daily basis and was quite happy doing some freelance English teaching.
Have you ever wondered why it is that from time to time you find yourself going through the school of hard knocks? Just when you’re thriving on some “ups” in your life, something happens that brings you down a few notches on the happiness scale. “Why me?” “Why this?” “Why now?” Instead of helping to turn things around, those questions only make matters worse. Finally you remind yourself that even if you don’t understand and can’t see anything good coming from your present struggles, God can. He’s always got a plan. So you decide to trust Him and hold on, and He works things out in the end.
In The Fellowship of the Ring,1 the elven “Lady of Light” Galadriel presents Frodo with a crystal phial containing the light of Eärendil’s star. “It will shine brighter when night is about you,” she promises; and sure enough, over the course of their quest, Frodo and Sam use the light on a number of occasions to avoid harm.
Light is appreciated and valued, because we’ve experienced darkness. Hope is truly valued after we’ve experienced despair. Our blessings bring us the greatest joy, because we’ve experienced life without them. We value health because we’ve experienced sickness, and we understand the value of being loved because we know what it’s like to feel loneliness.
When our son Pete was three, he was diagnosed with leukemia, and from one moment to the next, our lives changed drastically. There are no instruction manuals that can prepare you for how to cope when your child is facing a life-threatening disease. Even though we found shelter in the loving arms of Jesus, our tender Shepherd, we still had to find a way to face the scary events of the following weeks and months.
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”—Christopher Robin (A. A. Milne)
The first time I read this quote, I thought of a story I had just read about a young man with extraordinary athletic skill and ability. At just nineteen years old, Rafael Nadal already knew that he wanted to be a world champion tennis player.