(See also Failure, Handicaps)


God gives burdens, also shoulders. Yiddish proverb


A rabbi was asked a question by a pupil, referring to Deuteronmy 6:6 "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart." "Why is it said this way?" the pupil asked. "Why are we not told to place them in our heart?" The rabbi answered that it is not within man's power to place the divine teachings directly in his heart. "All that we can do is place them on the surface of the heart so that when the heart breaks they will drop in."


When they first manufactured golf balls, they made the covers smooth. Then it was discovered that after a ball had been roughed up one could get more distance out of it. So they started manufacturing them with dimpled covers. So it is with life; it takes some rough spots in your life to make you go your farthest.


A gardener took great pride in caring for his lawn. But one year it grew full of dandelions. He tried every method and product to get rid of them, but nothing worked. Exasperated, he wrote the Department of Agriculture explaining all he had done. "What shall I try next?" he wrote. "Try getting used to them," came the reply.


Beverly Sills, operatic great, tells of her two severely handicapped children in her pictorial autobiography, Bubbles. Her own natural daughter is deaf and her stepdaughter is also severely handicapped. She writes:

"I was now only thirty-four, but a very mature thirty-four. In a strange way my children had brought me an inner peace. The first question I had when I learned of their tragedies was a self-pitying 'Why me?' Then gradually it changed to a much more important 'Why them?' Despite their handicaps they were showing enormous strength in continuing to live as normal and constructive lives as possible. How could Peter and I show any less strength? After all that had happened, I felt we could survive anything."


Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. Helen Keller


Joni Eareckson's story is now well known to us both through her books and the movie about her paralysis as a teenager and her amazing fight back to a useful and productive life of ministry through her art. From the preface of Joni:

"Isolated, by itself, what is a minute? Merely a measurement of time. There are sixty in an hour, 1,440 in a day. At seventeen, I had already ticked off more than 9 million of them in my life. Yet, in some cosmic plan, this single minute was isolated. Into these particular sixty seconds was compressed more significance than all the millions of minutes marking my life prior to this instant.

"So many actions, sensations, thoughts, and feelings were crowded into that fragment of time. How can I describe them? How can I begin to catalog them?

"I recall so clearly the details of those few dozen seconds—seconds destined to change my life forever. And there was no warning or premonition.

"What happened on July 30, 1967, was the beginning of an incredible adventure which I feel compelled to share because of what I have learned.

"Oscar Wilde wrote: 'In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.' To rephrase his thought, I suggest there are likewise only two joys. One is having God answer all your prayers; the other is not receiving the answer to all your prayers. I believe this because I have found that God knows my needs infinitely better than I know them. And He is utterly dependable, no matter which direction our circumstances take us."

"In the Psalms we're told that God does not deal with us according to our sins and iniquities. My accident was not a punishment for my wrongdoing—whether or not I deserved it. Only God knows why I was paralyzed. Maybe He knew I'd be ultimately happier serving Him. If I were still on my feet, it's hard to say how things might have gone. I probably would have drifted through life—marriage, maybe even divorce—dissatisfied and disillusioned. When I was in high school, I reacted to life selfishly and never built on any long—lasting values. I lived simply for each day and the pleasure I wanted—and almost always at the expense of others."


When you are face to face with a difficulty, you are up against a discovery. Lord Kelvin


In the northeastern United States codfish are a big commercial business. Note the following facts: There is a market for eastern cod all over, especially in sections farthest removed from the northeast coastline. But the public demand posed a problem to the shippers. At first they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but the freeze took away much of the flavor. So they experimented with shipping them alive, in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive, the cod still lost its flavor and, in addition, became soft and mushy. The texture was seriously affected.

Finally, some creative person solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank of water along with their natural enemy—the catfish. From the time the cod left the East Coast until it arrived at its westernmost destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank. And, you guessed it, when the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as when they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, it was better than before.

Each one of us is in a tank of particular and inescapable circumstances. It is painful enough to stay in the tank. But in addition to our situation, there are God—appointed "catfish" to bring sufficient tension that keeps us alive, alert, fresh and growing. It's all part of God's project to shape our character so we will be more like his Son. Understand why the catfish are in your tank. Understand they are part of God's method of producing character in your life and mine. Charles Swindoll


A ship, like a human being, moves best when it is slightly athwart the wind, when it has to keep its sails tight and attend to its course. Ships, like men, do poorly when the wind is directly behind, pushing them sloppily on their way so that no care is required in steering or in the management of sails; the wind seems favorable, for it blows in the direction one is heading, but actually it is destructive, because it induces a relaxation in tension and skill. What is needed is a wind slightly opposed to the ship, for then tension can be maintained, and juices can flow and ideas can germinate; for ships, like men, respond to challenge. James Michener, Chesapeake


God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume ... it is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever. Vance Havner


Many years ago, there was found in an African mine the most magnificent diamond in the world's history. It was presented to the king of England to blaze in his crown or state. The king sent it to Amsterdam to be cut. It was put into the hands of an expert lapidary. And what do you suppose he did with it? He took the gem of priceless value, and cut a notch in it. Then he struck a hard blow with his instrument and—lo!—the superb jewel lay in his hand cleft in two. Did he do this out of recklessness, wastefulness, and criminal carelessness? Indeed not! For days and weeks that blow had been studied and planned. Drawings and models had been made of the gem. Its quality, its defects, its lines of cleavage had all been studied with minutest care. The man to whom it was committed was one of the most skillful lapidaries in the world.

Was that blow a mistake? No! It was the climax of the lapidary's skill. When he struck that blow, he did the one thing which would bring that gem to its most perfect shapeliness, radiance, and jeweled splendor. That blow which seemed to ruin the superb precious stone was, in fact, its perfect redemption. From those two halves were wrought two magnificent gems which the skilled eye of the lapidary saw hidden in the rough, uncut stone as it came from the mine.

Sometimes, God lets a stinging blow fall upon your life. The blood spurts; the nerves wince. The soul cries out in agony. The blow seems to you an appalling mistake. But it is not, for you are the most priceless jewel in the world to God. And He is the most skilled lapidary in the universe.

Let us beware of questioning the methods and approaches of almighty God. We lie in His hands, and He knows just how to deal with us.

13. A BAD DAY WHEN . . .

You know it's going to be a bad day when you wake up in a hospital all trussed up and your insurance agent tells you that your accident policy covers falling off the roof, but not hitting the ground.


In order to realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the stress of the storm.


Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled


It is the wounded oyster that mends its shell with pearl. Ralph Waldo Emerson


One day Linus and Charlie Brown are walking along and chatting with one another. Linus says, "I don't like to face problems head on. I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them. In fact, this is a distinct philosophy of mine. No problem is so big or so complicated that it can't be run away from!"


A fortune-teller studied the hand of a young man and said, "You will be poor and very unhappy until you are thirty-seven years old."

The young man responded, "Well, after that, what will happen? Will I be rich and happy?"

The fortune-teller said, "No, you'll still be poor, but you'll be used to it after that."


An athlete was blinded in a freak boxing accident. The doctors told him, "You'll never see again." The social workers said, "Learn braille, stay home, accept the fact that you will be dependent on others for the rest of your life." But Morris Frank fought to regain his independence. The result was the development of "The Seeing Eye," the organization that trains seeing-eye dogs for the blind.


The cynic says: "Don't bother telling people your troubles. Half of them don't care, and the other half figure you probably had it coming."


An artist went to visit a dear friend. When he arrived, she was weeping. He asked why. She showed him a handkerchief of exquisite beauty that had great sentimental value, which had been ruined by a drop of indelible ink.

The artist asked her to let him have the handkerchief, which he returned to her by mail several days later. When she opened the package she could hardly believe her eyes. The artist, using the inkblot as a base, had drawn on the handkerchief a design of great beauty with India ink. Now it was more beautiful and more valuable than ever.

Sometimes the tragedies that break our hearts can become the basis for a more beautiful design in our lives. Be patient with the hurts over which you have no control. They may become a source of healing, help, and beauty. Thomas Lane Butts


Rufus Jones lost a son of eleven years who was all the world to him. He wrote many years later about the experience, concluding with this luminous parable of how his own heart was opened to God's love:

"When my sorrow was at its most acute I was walking along a great city highway, when suddenly I saw a little child come out of a great gate, which swung to and fastened behind her. She wanted to go to her home behind the gate, but it would not open. She pounded in vain with her little fist. She rattled the gate. The she wailed as though her heart would break. The cry brought the mother. She caught the child in her arms and kissed away the tears. 'Didn't you know I would come? It's all right now.' All of a sudden I saw with my spirit that there was love behind my shut gate."

If you suffer with God you will find love behind your shut gate, a love that can lead you through the gate to be at home with all the children of God.


Five or six years ago I visited a church in Connecticut. In the middle of the eucharistic liturgy, when the whole congregation was kneeling and singing the "Alleluia," I saw a woman near me with her hands lifted in praise. The thing was, those hands were terribly twisted and gnarled, and she had a pair of crutches near her. Dear Christ, I thought, what makes Christians sing "Alleluia"? Clearly there was something besides self-interest welling up from that woman in the act of praise.


The ability to get into trouble and the ability to get out of trouble are seldom present in the same person.


When he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home on a legal technicality, and he had to work to help support them. At age nine, his mother died. At twenty-two, he lost his job as a store clerk. He wanted to go to law school, but his education wasn't good enough. At twenty-three, he went into debt to become a partner in a small store. At twenty-six, his business partner died, leaving him a huge debt that took years to repay. At twenty-eight, after courting a girl for four years, he asked her to marry him. She said no. At thirty-seven, on his third try, he was elected to Congress, but two years later, he failed to be reelected. At forty-one, his four-year-old son died. At forty-five, he ran for the Senate and lost. At forty-seven, he failed as the vice-presidential candidate. At forty-nine, he ran for the Senate again and lost. At fifty-one, he was elected president of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln, a man many consider the greatest leader the country ever had. Some people get all the breaks.


The highest joy to the Christian almost always comes through suffering. No flower can bloom in paradise which is not transplanted from Gethsemane. Ian MacLaren


You see a "60 Minutes" news team in your office. You call Suicide Prevention and they put you on hold. You turn on the news and they're showing emergency routes out of the city. Your twin sister forgot your birthday. Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell's Angels on the freeway. Your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat. Your income tax check bounces. You put both contact lenses in the same eye.


With me, a change of trouble is as good as a vacation. David Lloyd George


Remember, if everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.... When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.


No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt


The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials. Chinese proverb


The tree that never had to fight For sun and sky and air and light, Never became a forest king,

But lived and died a common thing.

The man who never had to toil,

Who never had to win his share

Of sun and sky and light and air,

Never became a manly man,

But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow on ease.

The stronger wind, the tougher trees,

The farther sky, the greater length,

By sun and cold, by rain and snow,

In tree, or man, good timber grows.

Douglas Mallock


There once was an oyster whose story I tell,

Who found that sand had got under his shell;

Just one little grain, but it gave him much pain,

For oysters have feelings although they're so plain.

Now, did he berate the working of Fate,

Which had led him to such a deplorable state?

Did he curse out the government, call for an election?

No; as he lay on the shelf, he said to himself:

"If I cannot remove it, I'll try to improve it."

So the years rolled by as the years always do,

And he came to his ultimate destinystew.

And this small grain of sand which had bothered him so,

Was a beautiful pearl, all richly aglow.

Now this tale has a moralfor isn't it grand

What an oyster can do with a morsel of sand;

What couldn't we do if we'd only begin

With all of the things that get under our skin.


Some of the world's greatest men and women have been saddled with disabilities and adversities but have managed to overcome them. Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in a prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan. Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington. Raise him in abject poverty, and you have an Abraham Lincoln. Subject him to bitter religious prejudice, and you have a Benjamin Disraeli. Strike him down with infantile paralysis, and he becomes a Franklin D. Roosevelt. Burn him so severely in a schoolhouse fire that the doctors say he will never walk again, and you have a Glenn Cunningham, who set a world's record in 1934 for running a mile in 4 minutes, 6.7 seconds. Deafen a genius composer, and you have a Ludwig van Beethoven. Have him or her born black in a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have a Booker T. Washington, a Harriet Tubman, a Marian Anderson, or a George Washington Carver. Make him the first child to survive in a poor Italian family of eighteen children, and you have an Enrico Caruso. Have him born of parents who survived a Nazi concentration camp, paralyze him from the waist down when he is four, and you have an incomparable concert violinist, Itzhak Perlman. Call him a slow learner, "retarded," and write him off as ineducable, and you have an Albert Einstein.


Theodore E. Steinway, president of Steinway and Sons, once noted, "In one of our concert grand pianos, 243 taut strings exert a pull of 40,000 pounds on an iron frame. It is proof that out of great tension may come great harmony."


God will look you over, not for medals or degrees, but for scars. Edward Sheldon


A man confined to bed because of a lingering illness had on his sunlit windowsill a cocoon of a beautiful species of butterfly. As nature took its course, the butterfly began its struggle to emerge from the cocoon. But it was a long, hard battle. As the hours went by, the struggling insect seemed to make almost no progress. Finally, the human observer, thinking that "the powers that be" had erred, took a pair of scissors and snipped the opening larger. The butterfly crawled out, but that's all it ever did—crawl. The pressure of the struggle was intended to push colorful, life-giving juices back into the wings, but the man in his supposed mercy prevented this. The insect never was anything but a stunted abortion, and instead of flying on rainbow wings above the beautiful gardens, it was condemned to spend its brief life crawling in the dust. That gives me the idea that God knows what He is doing. It's a fact that you can depend on Him—even when it seems the struggle is hard and meaningless.


Christ did not come to do away with suffering; He did not come to explain it; He came to fill it with His presence. Paul Claudel


The Lord gives us friends to push us to our potential—and enemies to push us beyond it. Jim Vorsas


Never fear shadows. That just means a light's shining somewhere nearby.


A woman described a nerve-wracking ordeal: "It was like being trapped for four hours in a stuck elevator with a team of Jehovah's Witnesses."



What I call a good patient is one who, having found a good physician, sticks to him till he dies. Oliver Wendell Holmes


Commitment means a willingness to be unhappy for awhile.

3. NO P.S.

A college man walked into a photography studio with a framed picture of his girlfriend. He wanted the picture duplicated. This involved removing it from the frame. In doing this, the studio owner noticed the inscription on the back of the photograph: "My dearest Tom, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity." It was signed "Diane," and it contained a P.S.: "If we ever break up, I want this picture back."

We who have been baptized have professed our love for God and for others. We belong to Christ. There can be no P.S. in our life given to God. We can never break up with Him. We are His. We belong to Him—forever. Charles Krieg


My single greatest concern is the growing inertia I see, inertia born out of our luxury and materialism. People are fooling themselves when they say the job is done. . .. The vast body of people in the world today have never been given enough information to know if they accept or reject Jesus. . . . Most people think what the gospel needs is more clever, skilled people, when what it needs is more people who are willing to bleed, suffer, and die in a passion to see people come to Christ. Bob Pierce


There was a pious old gentleman of an earlier generation who used to get up regularly at prayer meeting in his church to pray: "Use me, O Lord, use me—in some advisory capacity!"


General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked the secret of his amazing Christian life. Booth answered, "I told the Lord that he could have all that there is of William Booth."


Laid on thine altar, 0 my Lord, Divine,

Accept my gift this day, for Jesus' sake;

I have no jewels to adorn thy shrine,

No world-famed sacrifice to make;

And here I bring within my trembling hands

This will of mine, a thing that seemeth small;

Yet thou alone canst understand

That when I yield Thee this, I yield Thee all!


There is a story about two New York men who had never been out of the city. They decided that they had had it with city living, so they bought a ranch down in Texas in order to live off the land like their ancestors.

The first thing they decided they needed was a mule. So they went to a neighboring rancher and asked him if he had a mule to sell. The rancher answered, "No, I'm afraid not."

They were disappointed, but as they visited with the rancher for a few moments one of them saw some honeydew melons stacked against the barn and asked, "What are those?" The rancher, seeing that they were hopeless city slickers, decided to have some fun. "Oh," he answered, "those are mule eggs. You take one of those eggs home and wait for it to hatch, and you'll have a mule." The city slickers were overjoyed at this, so they bought one of the melons and headed down the bumpy country road toward their own ranch. Suddenly they hit an especially treacherous bump, and the honeydew melon bounced out the back of the pickup truck, hit the road, and burst open. Now, seeing in his rearview mirror what had happened, the driver turned his truck around and drove back to see if he could retrieve his mule egg.

Meanwhile a big old Texas jackrabbit came hopping by and saw this honeydew melon burst in the road. He hopped over to it and, standing in the middle of that mess, he began to eat. Now here came the two city slickers. They spied their mule egg burst open and this long-eared creature in the middle of it. One of the men shouted, "Our mule egg has hatched! Let's get our mule."

But seeing those two men coming toward it, the jackrabbit took off hopping in every direction with the two city fellows in hot pursuit. The two men from New York gave everything they had to catch him, but finally they could go no farther. Both men fell wearily onto the ground gasping for air while the jackrabbit hopped off into the distance. Raising up on his elbow, one of the men said to the other, "Well, I guess we lost our mule." The other man nodded grimly. "Yes, but you know," he said, "I'm not sure I wanted to plow that fast anyway."


Football coach Lou Holtz of Arkansas pointed out the difference between being merely involved and being truly committed to a cause. "The Kamikaze pilot that was able to fly missions was involved—but not committed."


(See also Evangelism, Missions)


Did you read about the little boy who returned home after his first Sunday school class? His mother asked, "Who was your teacher?' and the little boy answered, "I don't remember her name, but she must have been Jesus' grandmother because she didn't talk about anyone else."

Does our conversation reflect our love of Jesus? Would our words give away our relationship with him?


C. S. Lewis fell into grace. But instead of simply entering a monastery, he did worse. He ended up publicly explaining and openly defending his personal God to millions of listeners and readers. Such undignified behavior embarrassed the hierarchy at his college at Oxford and cost Lewis his chance of ever advancing to a higher position on the faculty there. Lewis learned that if you speak about beauty, truth or goodness, and about God as a great spiritual force of some kind, people will remain friendly. But he found that the temperature drops when you discuss a God who gives definite commands, who does definite acts, who has definite ideas and character. Kathryn Lindskoog


I recall one night very late in the evening when I was called to the hospital. As I was walking down the semidark hall, with no people around, a man suddenly ran out of one of the patient rooms. He ran up to me—I had never seen him before—and he said to me with joy in his face, "She's going to make it. She's better. She is going to make it," and then he made his way on down the hall. I have not seen the man since. I do not know who he was talking about. I assume it was someone very near and dear to him, and he had just received good news. He could not wait to share it. He did not even have to know the person with whom he shared it; it just flowed from him because he had received good news, and good news is to be shared. Don Mckenzie


One day as a woman was crossing a street at London station, an old man stopped her. He said to her, "Excuse me, ma'am, but I want to thank you."

She looked up and exclaimed, "Thank me?"

He replied, "Yes'm, I used to be a ticket collector, and whenever you went by you always gave me a cheerful smile and a good morning. I knew that smile must come from inside somewhere. Then one morning I saw a little Bible in your hand. So I bought one, too, and I found Jesus.


The complex shapes and uniqueness of snowflakes have confounded scientists for hundreds of years. In the past, it was generally recognized that the formation of a snowflake is a two-step process: making a single crystal and then having it grow.

This process begins as a microscopic speck of dust is trapped in a molecule of water vapor inside the winds of a winter storm. As the particle is frosted with droplets of supercooled water, it becomes heavier and begins its plunge to earth. The falling ice crystal is sculpted by the varying temperature and humidity—lengthening here, a spiky branch pushing out there—until it grows into a shape as unique as a person's fingerprint.

But in the past few years, as our ability to study these beautiful flakes has improved with the development of new technology, a great mystery has emerged. Scientists have discovered that very few snowflakes contain a speck of dust or any other particle which has long been believed to be necessary for a snowflake to form! How are these unique flakes formed?

Dr. John Hallett, a physicist at the University of Nevada, has discovered the answer. As snowflakes are being formed, extremely dry or cold air cause snowflakes to break up into smaller parts. The small fragments then act as seeds for new flakes to develop. In other words, it takes snow to make snow!

Sometimes we forget that it is necessary for Christians to give a personal witness of their faith in order for others to discover the love and life Christ has for them. In other words, Christ uses Christians to make Christians!

Whenever we experience pressures and difficult burdens, when we see a part of our lives broken or shattered, these are often the circumstances God uses to let our faith touch someone close to us and be the seed for a new and beautiful life in Christ. To many, the reason we face difficulties in life is a great mystery. But to us, we live expecting to bear burdens for our Savior and anticipating that the pressures we endure will be used by God to produce new life in others!

Remember, Christ uses Christians to make Christians. Look for Him to use you! Chad Miller, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, West Frankfort, Illinois


Speakers and writers must present the glory of God as clearly and compellingly as human language will permit. Otherwise both preacher and people will be reduced to dreaming little dreams and attempting for God only little things, when they could be doing so much more. Otherwise they will succumb to what Annie Dillard terms "the enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy—bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy—bitsy years on end." The trouble with that, says Dillard, is that God and "the world is wider than that in all directions, more dangerous and more bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus."


Luigi Tarisio was found dead one morning with scarce a comfort in his home, but with 246 exquisite violins, which he had been collecting all his life, crammed into an attic, the best in the bottom drawer of an old rickety bureau. In his very devotion to the violin, he had robbed the world of all that music all the time he treasured them; others before him had done the same, so that when the greatest of his collection, a Stradivarius, was first played it had had 147 speechless years. Yet, how many of Christ's people are like old Tarisio? In our very love of the church we fail to give the glad tidings to the world; in our zeal for the truth we forget to publish it. When shall we all learn that the Good News needs not just to be cherished, but needs to be told? All people need to hear it.

—Illustrations Unlimited