On a tough day like today, the story of a young man's redemption, perseverance, and hope can be enough to mend our shattered worlds when we think all hope is lost.
Recently, my husband met up with a man he had not seen in years. He'd had a rough season in his life filled with alcohol, drugs, and a horrible accident that changed his life forever. He did time. Three years. In that time, he lost his wife, his family, his job, and his freedom; everything he held dear.
This man sat across from my husband, years later, talking about the then and the now. He served his time. Somehow, with one foot in front of the other, he began to pick up his life again.
Piece by piece.
He now has a job that he loves. He built a new family and continues to work to repair the family relations he once had. Perhaps most importantly, he walked away from the demons that started his wayward spiral...the drinking and the drugs.
He put that old life behind him.
I suspect he found the courage by...
"...forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead..." (Phil. 3:13 ESV).
The apostle Paul, while in prison, sent letters to several churches to tell the disciples this same thing, to 'strain for what lies ahead.' Paul told a story, not of grief, fear, or complaint, but a story of rejoicing. Being 'content in all circumstances.' (Phil. 4:11), showing gratitude and thanksgiving. In the worst of circumstances, Paul set an example to Christians being persecuted and living in fear. If he could live in prison and be content with hope and peace, then they could too.
"What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (Phil.4:9 ESV)
Had Paul not lived out his life to tell this encouraging story to his disciples, who knows what would have become of the believers of Christ. They might have given up, shuttered their doors, lost hope, ceased to spread the gospel. They had hope to press on because Paul lived his story for others to emulate.
I believe it was God's perfect timing when that gentleman walked into my husband's office. His life story arrived a week before we received the devastating news that our baby, our son, our second-born, made a choice that would affect the rest of his life. It was news that made us want to shutter the doors, give up, and lose hope. The Lord knew we would need someone's life to speak light into our darkness.
A life that chooses to live through the struggle and come out the other side is a testimony.
It gives light and hope to a grieving mother and father, a helping hand to an addicted soul, encouragement to the weary and the empty.
So, how do we keep moving forward? As Paul suggests, forget what lies behind. For God to 'do a new thing in us' (Isa. 43;18-19), we need to 'fix our gaze directly before us' (Prov.4:25). When we do this, we can begin to put one foot in front of the other.
Paul 'strained toward what was ahead.' Strained is defined as showing signs of tiredness or nervous tension. I can certainly relate to that feeling.
When the bad news keeps flooding my quiet spaces, I am TIRED. My anxiety seems to have no place to go. It can be a STRUGGLE to move forward.
I know, momma, this struggle is extreme for you, too. It helps me to know that, though Paul was tired, he kept straining forward, anyway. His reward was contentment and peace.
Just as my husband's visitor did, we can put our lives back in order piece by piece. Soon, it becomes more than that. Our life becomes a story to tell, which helps others put their lives back in order.
After living great hardship, Paul was ready to share the gospel of Christ and share his life story because the disciples had become dear to him. (1Thess 2:8) He wanted them to know the peace and confidence he had in Christ during difficult circumstances.
Our visitor may have never even realized that each strain he took forward ended up being a blessing to us and a hope for others. The reach of his story is far beyond measure. It stretches out to every person he meets and everyone who hears. Without realizing it, his life preaches redemption, grace, and mercy...and most of all...hope.
So, I wipe my tears. I turn from what is behind me. I get out of bed each day, and I strain forward to put one foot in front of the other.
I let my life preach a story. May it be blessed beyond measure.