Grandpa first introduced me to the ice house on his dairy farm when I was just a tot. After the cows were milked and the raw milk put into sterilized bottles in the creamery, the bottles were submerged in ice water in the ice house. There was no refrigeration there in 1952, just good insulation and a thick door to keep the heat out. The bottles of milk were kept fresh in ice water in a large metal tub. Then, very early each morning, the wooden crates of glass bottles were put into the milk truck with big chunks of ice on top and delivered to the surrounding households. Fresh milk daily.
Most people try not to think about it more than they have to, but there’s no denying it: There’s a lot of suffering in the world. Innocents are killed, maimed, and made homeless in cruel and unjust wars. More suffer the same in natural or manmade disasters. Cancer, AIDS, and other diseases claim millions of lives each year, often after months or years of pain. There’s no end to it. Why does life have to be this way? It’s the age-old question: Why does God allow suffering?
If you’ve ever felt like your whole life has been uprooted and you have no idea how you’ll make it to the next day, take heart from the Turner’s Oak—a 16-meter-tall giant planted in 1798 and now thriving in the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens, just south of London. In the 1980s, it was sickly and looked like it might die. Then on the 16th of October, 1987, the Great Storm hit parts of the United Kingdom, France, and the Channel Islands. It may have been the worst storm to hit since 1703 and knocked over 15 million trees in the south of England in just one hour. Among its victims was the Turner’s Oak. The wind lifted the tree by its shallow root plate completely out of the ground, violently shook it, and then set it back down again like a giant hand lifting a wine glass up by its stem and then plopping it back on the table.
I didn’t realize how busy I was until I stopped. I didn’t really think about how important it was for me to go places and be around people until I couldn’t. I never really thought I was stressing myself with activities until, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, there were no more activities, and I had to stay home.
Remember the time when I calmed the sea? My disciples were panicking and thought that they would certainly perish. But when they looked to Me for help, rather than looking at their circumstances, I came to their rescue in spite of the waves and the storm.1
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.
I have such a clear memory of it. I woke up early on a summer morning and looked outside to see only white. I rubbed my eyes, thinking there was something wrong with them, then decided to explore. I stepped out onto the porch and down the steps and was amazed to feel like I was in the middle of a cloud. I walked a few feet and spun around, then I realized that I didn’t know where I was. I was only steps from the porch, but I didn’t know which way it lay.
I am sitting in a small square in Sarajevo. Somehow I’ve always had the urge to come back here, to this country which suffered so much in the recent past. Memories are flooding my mind. I brought my two sons here when they were children to run around and to rollerblade. They ran, played, raced, and shouted excitedly. I watched, sometimes worried, always prayed for their safety, and once in a while helped them with a game or refereed their competitions.