I like to watch birds at play, so years ago I built a small sanctuary in our backyard to attract them. For several months I enjoyed the sight of my feathered friends feeding and flitting about—until a Cooper’s Hawk made my bird refuge his private hunting reserve.
Such is life: Just about the time we settle down to take our ease, something or someone comes along to unsettle our nests. Why, we ask, must so much of life be a vale of tears?
I’ve heard many answers to that old question, but lately I’m satisfied with just one: “All the discipline of the world is to make [us] children, that God may be revealed to [us]” (George MacDonald, Life Essential). When we become like children, we begin trusting, resting solely in the love of our Father in heaven, seeking to know Him and to be like Him.
Cares and sorrow may follow us all the days of our lives, but “we do not lose heart. . . . For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Can we not rejoice, then, with such an end in view?
I tend to get stuck in my ways, so anything that diverts me from my routines and plans can be very annoying. Worse yet, life’s diversions are sometimes unsettling and painful. But God, who said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (Isa. 55:8), knows that He often needs to divert us in order to make more of our lives than we would have if we had stuck to our original plans.
Recently, my husband and I were reacquainted with a young man we had known as a child many years ago. We fondly reminisced about a Christmas program when Matthew had sung—in a perfect boy soprano—the song “All Is Well” by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Michael W. Smith. It was a wonderful memory of a song beautifully sung.
A friend described his grandmother as one of the greatest influences in his life. Throughout his adult years, he has kept her portrait next to his desk to remind himself of her unconditional love. “I really do believe,” he said, “that she helped me learn how to love.”
College students rent a house from my sister and her husband. One night, a thief attempted to break in. When the young woman living there called the police to tell them that a break-in was in progress, the operator responded in an unusual way: “You’ll have to call back in the morning. We’re just too busy right now.” That response was very disturbing! The young woman had done the right thing by calling the police, but for some reason her plea for help was disregarded. That kind of indifference is upsetting.
From my home in Colorado, I recently used Google Maps to “wander around” the neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya, where my family lived 2 decades ago. A satellite image on my computer screen enabled me to identify roads, landmarks, and buildings. In some cases, I got a street-level view, as if I were standing on the ground there.
During the era of great sea exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries, sailing ships traversed vast, hazardous oceans and navigated dangerous coastlines. Pilots used various navigation techniques—including a book called a “rutter” (not the “rudder,” the ship’s steering device). This was a log of events kept by earlier voyagers who chronicled their encounters with previously unknown and difficult waters. By reading the sailing details in a rutter, captains could avoid hazards and make it through difficult waters.
In a radio interview, a basketball superstar was asked about his knack for making the game-winning shot in crucial situations. The reporter asked how he was able to be so calm in such pressure-packed moments. His answer was that he tried to simplify the situation. “You only have to make one shot,” the player replied. One shot. That is the essence of simplifying a difficult situation. Focus only on what is in front of you right now. Don’t worry about the expectations of your coach or teammates. Simplify.
For all of us who, like Job, have suffered through tragedy and then dared to aim our questions at God, chapter 38 of Job’s book should give us plenty to think about. Imagine what it must have felt like for the great man of the East when “out of the whirlwind” he heard God say, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me” (vv.1-3). Gulp!