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.
“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.
One of the challenging aspects of Christian life is the fact that becoming a follower of Jesus does not make us immune to life’s trials and tribulations. We know that God is love,1 yet even those who have faith in Him still suffer disease, injury, financial hardships, worry, fear, and death just like everyone else. Jesus didn’t sugarcoat the truth, but He did offer hope when He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”2
Some months ago while visiting Keith and Caryn1 in San Antonio, Texas, they invited me to accompany them on a visit to their friend Phoebe. Phoebe, just 22 years old, had been diagnosed with leukemia and was undergoing treatment.
During our dinner together, Phoebe told me that she had just found out two days earlier that the cancer was found to no longer be in remission and that it was very aggressive. She probably had no more than four months to live.
My first encounter with Nadia was seven years ago, when a friend brought her to our home at 10 o’clock one night. Her skin was sallow; her eyes sunken and empty; her hair, obviously cared for meticulously at one time, was now dry and stringy; and her clothes, facial expressions, and body language told us, even before she said a word, that she had lost hope.
There are cycles in life—times in which everything seems to go well, and times when things seem to go badly. I want you to learn to hold on to Me through each phase of the cycle.
As much as we would like it, life is not always as wonderful as we’d wish, and we sometimes find ourselves having to brave the tumult of experiences that are hard to bear. Sometimes, when our patience and faith are tried, when all our attempts to do the right thing end up caked in the mud of problems and troubles, it seems impossible to find a sense of value in what we’re doing.
Are you worried about your future and that of your loved ones? Does it feel like your world recently came crashing down around you? Do you feel helpless, depressed, isolated, or lonely?
Christians aren’t immune to difficulty—family problems, fears, uncertainty, too much to do, financial pressures, and so much more. Having faith doesn’t keep us from difficulties, but we who know the Lord can avail ourselves of His promises, which can get us through those difficulties.
I want to share a few of the things that help me to keep going when things are rough. These are part of my personal survival list.
Life is full of challenges of many kinds. For some, the most monumental ones present themselves a good ways down the road. In my case, life’s main challenge made itself known shortly after I was born and remains with me to this day. I am blind.
Doctors were never able to determine the exact cause for my blindness, and could do nothing to remedy it, but the impact of this disability was especially painful during childhood. One occasion stands out. I was seven. My family would read to me from the Bible, and I was accustomed to sometimes holding the book in my hands. Then my parents ordered a Braille Bible. Rather than a single volume, my fingers now touched a pile of 18 huge volumes. What’s more, each page had line after line of dots across it. I couldn’t comprehend how these seemingly meaningless dots could in any way be associated with the verses I listened to as my parents read to me from their Bible.