One Wednesday evening as Kathy and I relaxed after dinner in the home of our friends, Rich and Mary, our conversation was abruptly interrupted by their son, Chris, as he suddenly burst through the door exclaiming, “Caleb fell into the cactus patch and I can’t pull him out!”
Rich and I rushed out to see my three-year-old wallowing in the cactus garden, desperately trying to stand up and walk out. I immediately stepped in, picked up my small son, and rushed him into the kitchen where Kathy and Mary began to remove the bothersome cactus spines. As I held my wriggling son, I was amazed to see hundreds of small transparent barbs imbedded in the small child’s fingers.
Caleb was surprisingly calm until he felt the pain the sharp spines caused as his mother painstakingly pulled them out—one-by-one. As his patience wore thin, I held him close, tightening my grip in order to keep him still. In that I had to go to work later that night at the 24 hour Command Center at Scott AFB, I had already changed into my Air Force flight suit. Unbeknownst to me, as I held my wriggling son, the prickly barbs imbedded themselves into the body and sleeves of my flight suit, like a seamstress’s pincushion.
Later that evening as my overnight shift at the command center wore on, the sharp needles worked their way all around my flight suit, causing me no small discomfort. Occasionally, I’d experience a sudden, sharp jab that elicited an involuntary, “Ouch!” No amount of squirming in my chair eliminated the sharp discomfort. What a sight I must have been as I wiggled and squirmed in my seat, seeking relief as the needles mysteriously jabbed me in sensitive areas of my body all night long.
I’ve come to understand that life is sometimes like those sharp spines. No matter how you wriggle and squirm, the barbs of daily life stressors and disappointments are often indelible. Although pain in life may be as unavoidable as it is uncontrollable, our reaction to the discomfort is ours to determine. If we focus solely on the annoying barbs, we’re apt to become distracted and lose focus. Whereas if we chose to do our best to live with the inevitable and unavoidable stabs of disappointment, we’ll be better suited to channel our attention and energies toward what’s truly important. Besides, if we’re patient, the painful barbs will eventually lose their sharp edge and work their way out.
Even Jesus Christ endured disappointments and suffering as did those that followed Him. Preparing his disciples before his impending death for difficult times to come, Jesus encouraged them with these words, “…In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b