Very few of us, in all likelihood, will face the kind of tough tme that Dan Anderson wrote about as a raw and invincible 17 year-old. His courage to tell that story, including the comforting and assuring words and gestures he received from the widow, is one of his gifts to us. Thank you, Dan, for opening your heart to us!
Dan's story made my mind wander to one of my favorite passages from the Apostle Paul on tough times. When I re-read Paul's words, I saw how specfic, precise and optimistic his thoughts were when mentioning tough times. Perhaps you know the verses:
"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (II Cor 4:8-9).
I noticed for the first time that Paul breaks our varied distresses into four categories. He speaks, in order, about pressures we face; perplexity in our lives; pursuit of us by other forces or people; and pounding by repeated and unwanted assaults against us.
Pressures are plentiful, but the combination of looming deadlines, a mountain of work and conflicting responsibilities often means that we feel "slammed," with no respite in sight. Perplexity happens because so much information deluges us taht we don't really have time to understand much of it, much less relate it to our lives. Often we have a sense of being pursued, by competitors, regulatory bodies, or just the inevitable forces of aging and decline. Finally, we sometimes just feel bedraggled, pounded and beat up, as if the entire world wants a bit of our soul and we are in no position to stop it.
In four images Paul has captured many of the tough tiems that come our way. These tough times certainly would have the last word in our lives - except that we notice they are always the second to last word for Paul. Pressed? Yes, but not crushed. Perplexed? Yes, but not fully confounded. Pursued? Yes, but not "caught." Pounded? Yes, but nto pulverized. Dan Anderson would probably be the first to agree.