I was flipping through the channels the other day and landed upon a international swim meet for physically challenged swimmers. Apparently it was the world finals, and the participants were simply amazing. For some of the races, all the contestants were wheeled to their starting blocks in their wheel-chairs, and the participants swam without the use of their legs. In another race, the swimmers were all blind, and to know when they were reaching the end of the pool, a person reached out from the poolside and tapped them on the head with a tennis ball which was attached to a pole. Race after race was simply amazing.
I was inspired by these athletes; their resolve, their dedication, their adaptation. It all nudged me to tackle life in their example.
We do have a way of giving accolades to those who find themselves dealing with unique struggles to the point that they are able to accomplish amazing things. These accolades are well deserved and need to be sounded loudly.
Given the absolute propriety and importance of the support and encouragement that these battlers receive, it seems to me that it is likewise proper and important to remember those whose struggles are overwhelming and all consuming. I think about those folks for whom life is so heavy that even getting out of bed is an amazing achievement. I think about those folks who are treading along a path of increasing struggle as they age, and finding the courage to face the next day is a tremendous task. I think of kids who ride the bus all alone every day, and that step onto the bus seems higher than an Olympic high jump. I think of a severely autistic teen, locked in the prison of their own mind, and the parents who try daily to bring a ray of peace and hope to their child.
The world does a pretty good job of encouraging and praising folks who make it to the spotlight (and that is good!), but maybe not so good in doing so for those who struggle in the shadows.
Over and over again the Bible tells us that our value does not come from what we do, but from who we are. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are.” (1 John 3:1) Fact is we all find ourselves holding cards that are difficult to play. Sometimes we play them well. Sometimes not so well. Either way, God is cheering us on as his children. He applauds when we do well. He applauds when we have small successes. And even when we fail, God does not sit on his hands, instead God reaches down to set us on our feet again, and when our knees won’t hold our weight, God embraces us and holds us tight when we are shaking in fear.
So, no matter where you are in the struggles of your life, in the spotlight or in the shadows, know this; God treasures you. God treasures you with the life of his Son, Jesus, who died for you to claim you as his own, and rose from the dead so that God would have you with him forever. When Sunday morning comes, let me invite you to come and experience the depth of God’s love and delight in you as we celebrate the Easter victory over and over again. And if the depth of your struggles might make the trek to church too hard and long, know that we will be praying for you, asking God to give you courage and strength, and asking God to open our hearts to you.
Some give encouragement to those who battle by saying, “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” That is not what God says, because God knows that is not encouragement for those who are so burdened that they cannot move. God says this, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Have a great week. God’s grace and peace, (ggap) Pastor Jerry Nuernberger