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I grew up in Taiwan,
and every summer during my university years in the U.S. I flew home with three
things on the summer agenda: reunite with my family, make money for my tuition
bills, and go on as many adventures as I could on what is arguably the world’s
most incredible island. The summer after my freshman year, my brother and I
cooked up something beautiful. We mapped out a five-day trek starting from a
cabbage farm high up in Taiwan’s central mountain range, zig-zagging up a
rugged trail to 11,000 feet, and making our way for several days across a
massive ridge over to Snow Mountain (12,749 ft). You read that
correctly: snow on a tropical island. We were pumped. But on day two of The
Greatest Adventure Yet, soaking wet, cold, and in the middle of a cloud, we
discovered the trail and a large portion of the steep ridge had collapsed in a
landslide, making our hopes of completing the trip as fleeting as the distant
shale we could hear bouncing below us.
We had to turn back,
and we now had three days to kill. To be honest, my brother and I were both
pretty angry. How could the mountain do this to us? Why wasn’t there anything
posted about this? Did we really have to get our water from that brown,
bug-infested water hole for the next two days?
As we huddled in our
sleeping bags that night with a map and a flashlight, we decided to make the
best of it. We’d take our time and climb a different peak we hadn’t heard of.
We’d get home by a sentimental route, on a trail we used to hike with our dad
in middle school. And that extra time was a blessing. We spent ages on top of
our new peak munching on a Kendal Mint Cake and talking about life after
university. We sat quietly by a stream on the way down, where I told my brother
I needed to start dating this girl I’d met in the U.S., who now happens to be
Here’s the point. We
had plans, and they were great. Incredible, in fact. But in the mind of God,
those things were unimportant. Or maybe they were even intrusive. God’s
concerns often run completely contrary to our expectations. My wife (Kim) and I
have been marveling recently at Philippians 4. Here Paul is in prison, and he’s
exhorting his brothers and sisters in Philippi to rejoice, of all things. And then he makes this amazing statement in
verse 13: I can do all things through
Christ who strengthens me.
This might be one of
the most misquoted statements in the New Testament. Paul is not saying that he can set a goal and
then kick its butt in Jesus’ name (like bench pressing 300 pounds?). What he is
saying is that he is in prison. His world is wrecked. He’s having to write
letters to people he loves instead of going and being with them. He’s seeing
his brothers and sisters persecuted for Christ. His Snow Mountain trip isn’t a
mishap; it’s a disaster. “All things” here are not our own things. They are the things the world throws at us. “All
things” includes troubles, persecution, famine, and sword (Rm 8:35).
These last months
have been rough. This year is not close to anything I was expecting when my
family moved back to the States last summer. But the Suffering Servant is here
with us, and God’s Comforter is here in us. This is not a time of plenty and
abundance; it is a time of hunger and need (4:12). Yet we mustn’t cease from
asking ourselves, despite the trials before us, what God has for us even in
this. When we look to Him and seek what He desires, He becomes our strength.
Spirit, please help my mind and my heart to stop striving for just a moment.
When I find myself angry or disappointed or frustrated or discouraged today and
in these coming days, help me to be still long enough to hear You. Help me to
remember that You are here, and that You understand anguish. Help me to ask and
to listen for what You, not I, desire. Let me be content, just enough, to
listen to Your voice and to put You first in my thinking and in my feeling and
in my doing. Amen.
South Park Church1330 S. Courtland Avenue | Park Ridge, IL email@example.com | 847.825.5507
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