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Day 13

Day 13

Author: Joe Torgerson
June 24, 2020

 

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 my wife.

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.

 

Prayer

 

Holy 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.

 

Joe Torgerson


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