In John 14:26, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to comfort His followers after His departure from this world. “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.”1
This promise has been etched into my memory since childhood. But it wasn’t until I reached my midtwenties that I encountered “the Comforter” for myself.
My father had profound mental health issues which caused him, my mother, and us seven siblings much grief. I had a very unhappy childhood.
When I was two years old, I was seriously scalded by a pot of boiling water. To this day I still bear the scars over several parts of my body.
I was sitting in a wheelchair in the lobby of the hospital, waiting for the taxi to come. My shoulder was still swollen from the operation, and my entire arm was mottled with black and blue marks.
To top it off, it was raining, adding to my dark mood. Great! Rain! I thought. Just what I need!
One of my favorite forms of exercise is weightlifting. I’m no bodybuilder; I just do it to stay toned and keep in shape. I also find it interesting how akin weightlifting can be to our spiritual growth.
In our “spiritual weightlifting,” we have a truly awesome trainer. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” To me, the “yoke” is symbolic of anything that strengthens and exercises our faith and Christian walk. Jesus goes on to promise right after that, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”1
I was sitting in the car inside a parking lot, taking a moment to think about changes in my life and work. It felt like I had hit a plateau, and I was honestly a little worried.
Suddenly a man popped up next to my window. Short, straggly, and with an air of boundless cheer, he greeted me warmly. I was a little surprised, and even more cautious. Crime is rampant in South Africa, and there are plenty of opportunists looking for an easy mark.
I thought I had my life together. I had a loving husband, four wonderful children, and a fulfilling life as an aid worker. We had moved to Indonesia to work with a sheltered workshop for disabled children under the sponsorship of the International Council on Social Welfare and were truly enjoying our experiences.
However, after the birth of my fifth child, things took a different turn. I began struggling with nightmares and depression that overshadowed every aspect of my life. Then my marriage fell apart.
I remember my mother often reminding us children to “look on the bright side” and “be thankful for the little things.” If we’d complain about the hot weather in mid-June, she’d point out, “At least we can go swimming, right?” If we’d complain about not having dessert one night, she’d ask, “Doesn’t that make you thankful for the nights we do have dessert?” She tried to teach us to take every seemingly “bad” or “sad” situation we faced and look for something that we could appreciate or be happy about. She called this concept “looking for the silver lining.”
“Everything is falling apart!” My outburst came one day after a visit to the Kurasini Orphanage in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where our team of volunteers has been working with the staff to raise the children’s living standard. We had begun by improving sanitation in the kitchen and dormitories, and some progress had been made. But it seemed that there were always more things that needed to get done. As the to-do list grew, so did the list of needed materials and supplies. There was also the matter of funding. How would we find enough sponsors to help meet all of these needs?