My friend Lesley came for a visit one day. She used to live in Jacksonville, Florida, several years ago, but decided to move out of the big city into a more rural setting in the mountains of North Carolina where the air is pure and the water springs are sweet. After lunch, she and I and Sasha our German Shepherd went for a walk. It wasn't long into the walk when Lesley remarked about the intense heat and humidity. Her face was red as a beet and sweat was pouring down her face. The heat did not bother me that much, but I knew that my friend was having a difficult time. Obviously, she had lost her acclimation to the sweltering heat of North Florida's summer.
Earlier, I had planned for us to brisk walk two miles. Under the circumstances, I knew Lesley would not be overly enthused about completing this walk. We feared heat exhaustion so we decided to turn back to the house. To help cool off a little we stopped by the side of the road, sat on the grass and rested under the shade of old maple, oak, and pine trees. After a while, we felt somewhat revived and got up and started the trek home. How far away is your home from here? she asked desperate for immediate relief--a drink of water and an icy-cold towel on her head. I said, See that bend in the road ahead, just a little beyond that bend is home.
A bend in the road! Life is a pilgrimage, isn't it? This pilgrimage could be a long, dreary journey in the unrelenting heat of summer's unmerciful sun, and the road we're on could be full of bumps, hurdles, obstacles and bends.
Perhaps the earliest account of someone who came to a bend in the road of life was the Patriarch Job. We're all familiar with his story recorded in the Book of Job. When Job was going through his unbearable ordeal, do you suppose for one moment that the thought entered his mind: God will prosper me twice as much when all this is over with. He sure didn't, did he? He didn't know what the outcome would be. He didn't know whether he was going to live or die. In fact, he wanted to die, didn't he? But he maintained his integrity toward God and trusted Him regardless of the outcome. He said, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' Job 13:15. 'But He knoweth the way that I take; When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.' Job 23:10.
How are we handling the bends in our road? When something unplanned and unexpected comes up, do we despair, fret, get all bent out of shape, and throw in the towel? Or do we stay calm and collected and have the faith and trust in God that He would work things out for our good--that He would give us the wisdom to know that it is not the end; we've only come to a bend in the road. Soon, the road would smooth out and the journey once again would be a pleasant one.
Suffering from the ravages of cancer, not to mention the rheumatoid arthritis that left her totally crippled, Annie Johnson Flint came all too soon in her young life to a bend in the road. Her physical challenges had cut short a teaching career, but around the bend, the road went on. And so did Annie. Despite her difficulties, she wrote, with a pen held by bent and gnarled fingers, well over a thousand poems, many of which have been set to music that bless, uplift and bring comfort and joy to a weeping world.
Here's a poem she wrote that has an enduring principle we can apply in our lives. You see, no matter how difficult our station is, no matter how insurmountable the hurdles are, we must not stop. Stopping is defeat. Life must go on. The road goes on; we've only come to a bend in the road.
Some of us stay at the cross,
some of us wait at the tomb,
Quickened and raised with Christ
yet lingering still in the gloom.
Some of us 'bide at the Passover feast
with Pentecost all unknown,
The triumphs of grace in the heavenly place
that our Lord has made His own.
If the Christ who died had stopped at the cross,
His work had been incomplete.
If the Christ who was buried had stayed in the tomb,
He had only known defeat,
But the way of the cross never stops at the cross
and the way of the tomb leads on
To victorious grace in the heavenly place
where the risen Lord has gone.
A freak diving accident one beautiful summer day left 17-year old Joni Earickson paralyzed from the neck down. She became a quadriplegic. For the rest of her life she would be in a wheelchair. What a bleak future she faced! However, after years of both frustration and courage this young woman communicates triumph rather than despair to the world. She is the founder and president of Joni and Friends, an organization accelerating Christian ministry in the disability community. Since then, she has written 30 books, starred in the movie of her own life story, and created best-selling artwork with a paintbrush held between her teeth. Joni's role as a disability advocate led to a presidential appointment to the National Council on Disability for three and a half years, during which time the Americans with Disabilities Act became law.
In her book, A Quiet Place in a Crazy World, Joni writes, "I clasped my Bible to my chest and said, 'Oh, God do something in my life, just do something. I don't care what happens, but I don't like being miserable...' You see, God took my prayer seriously. About a month later, I dived recklessly into shallow water. When I hit bottom and broke my neck, my life flashed eerily before my eyes, and I knew God was answering that prayer. I was only 17 years old, but I knew this accident was, in a strange way the answer to my prayer...God has drawn me close to Him through my injury. My wheelchair, whether I like it or not, forces me to seek out His Word. It didn't happen through a Bible college or a summer camp. It happened through months of struggling on a hospital Stryker frame. I guess some people have to break their neck to really find God. But you know what? I can say now I'm glad it all happened."
A bend in the road for Joni Earickson Tada, no doubt, but the road has smoothed out for her through her public ministry that brings glory and honor to God and brings hope and encouragement to thousands of disabled as well as non-disabled people throughout the world.
He Restoreth My Soul is a documentary film that I saw at church years ago. It related a poignant story of Merrill Womach working faithfully in the vineyard of His Master as a Gospel singer and accomplished pianist.
One day after an extended business trip in California, he headed home to Tacoma, Washington, for a family Thanksgiving reunion. However, a blinding snow storm forced him and other pilots in the area to land their planes and take refuge in a city in Oregon close to the Washington border. A book, Tested By Fire also told Merrill Womach's story.
Later that day, Merrill met a pilot at the small airport restaurant who commented that there was no way he would fly his plane until the blizzard blew over completely. The mere fact, however, that Merrill was so close to home, and his family was waiting with Thanksgiving dinner soon to be served, motivated him to take his chances. Not long after take-off, the engines failed. He tried to turn back to the small landing strip and hoped and prayed that the plane would stay up until then, but the plane didn't make it. It crashed through the trees, and the impact knocked Merrill unconscious.
Then there was a loud explosion. When Merrill came to, he was surrounded by fire and intense heat. He struggled to get out of the burning wreckage. How he got out of the roaring inferno was a miracle itself. He staggered toward the road for help. Soon he was picked up by some of the very people he had met earlier in the restaurant and the same people who had listened to his singing and piano playing the night before on his impromptu concert.
Badly burned and charred black beyond recognition, fingers looking like black and bleeding claws, Merrill startled his rescuers on the way to the hospital by belting out Gospel songs, one right after another.
Healing was painfully slow for Merrill. The pain he suffered was not just physical pain. There were psychological and emotional pain as well not only for him but for the entire family--his wife and young children. There were moments of discouragement, depression and doubts. Indeed, they faced the most challenging obstacle any family could ever face and stay intact.
Constructive surgeries and excruciatingly painful physical therapies were scheduled and performed. These lasted for twelve long years.
In relating his experiences, Merrill told of his first look in a mirror. It was heart-breaking. He admitted that he looked like a monster. He told of people's reactions to his disfigurement. Many people stared. If he was walking on the street, some would drive around the block and come back to look at him. One woman actually thought that he was wearing a Halloween mask. When she realized the face was not a mask, she was mortified and apologized profusely. In restaurants, people stared. Very young children were frightened and ran to their parents. Some exclaimed loudly: Look at that man. He looks like a monster! These experiences were humiliating to say the least. But Merrill didn't throw in the towel and hibernate for life.
He knew that God would see him through. He knew that His grace is sufficient. He took the bull by the horn and went out to the world and lived a productive life. He continued with the business aspect of his job. He continued giving concerts and blessing and encouraging people with the story of his life, his unswerving faith, integrity, and devotion to a God who allowed him to be tested by fire.
Merrill's story is indeed classic and inspirational and human. We, too, have our share of life's struggles and fires of afflictions. We, too, are being tested. By God's grace, may we pass the test and triumph to His glory as we go through a bend in our road.
A bend in another road at a different place in a different era resulted in the blessing to the world through the life and ministry of Ellen G. White. Ellen was born at Gorham, Maine, November 26, 1827. At the age of nine, her parents, Robert and Eunice Harmon, moved to Portland, Maine. It was in Portland where Ellen encountered an accident by a school mate which nearly took her life.
Here's her account of the accident: "In company with my twin sister and
one of our school-mates, I was crossing a common in the city of Portland, when a girl about thirteen years of age, becoming angry at some trifle, followed us, threatening to strike us. Our parents had taught us never to contend with any one, but if we were in danger of
being abused or injured, to hasten home at once. We were doing this with all speed, but the girl followed us as rapidly, with a stone in her hand. I turned my head to see how far she was behind me, and as I did so, she threw the stone and it hit me on the nose. I was stunned by the blow, and fell senseless to the ground."
This accident seriously impaired Ellen's health and changed the direction
of her life. For two years she was not able to breathe through her nose, and she was enfeebled to the point where she was not able to study and to retain what she had learned. She wrote: "As I endeavored to bend my mind to my studies, the letters on the page would run together, great drops of perspiration would stand upon my brow, and a faintness and dizziness would seize me. I had a bad cough, and my whole system seemed debilitated. My teachers advised me
to leave school, and not to pursue my studies further till my health
Three years later, Ellen, who had ambition to be a scholar, tried to pursue her studies, but her health correspondingly deteriorated. It became apparent that if she were to remain in school, it would be at the expense of her life. Therefore, she did not attend school after she was twelve years old.
Her health and her studies, however, were not the only negative things that she had to deal with in her young and tender age. Her nose had been broken and her face was permanently disfigured. Later, as she regained strength and was able to play with her friends, she learned right away the bitter lesson that "personal appearance often makes a difference in the treatment we receive from our companions...Yet these little school-mates were not unlike a majority of the great world people. A pretty face, a handsome dress, attracts
them; but let misfortune take these away, and the fragile friendship grows cold or is broken. But when I turned to my Saviour, He comforted me. I sought the Lord earnestly in my trouble, and received consolation. I felt assured that Jesus loved even me."
While Ellen G. White only had a third grade education, she wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 49 books. Her writings are known as the Spirit of Prophecy which includes books such as The Desire of Ages, The Great Controversy, Patriarchs and Prophets, Gospel Workers, Child Guidance, Counsels on Diet and Foods, Ministry of Healing, and others. The Lord had given her a prophetic gift, and throughout her lifetime, she
had visions from God of what was to transpire upon this world before the return of Jesus Christ.
During the early years of the church, when the leading brethren completed an exhaustive Bible study which sometimes lasted through the entire night prayerfully searching for meaning on difficult points of doctrine, she would be taken off in vision and given the assurance
and confirmation that the brethren's interpretation of scriptures was correct.
Additionally, Ellen had visions of warnings and exhortation to benefit the Church
in its work of preparing a people to proclaim with power the last warning message of the Third Angel to the world and to meet their soon-coming Saviour. Not different from God's prophets before her, she was maligned, falsely accused, and misrepresented in character. All this was the work of the adversary, Satan, the Devil, who hates Christ from the beginning of time. He hates God's Truth, His Church, His prophets, His people for he is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), the father of lies (John 8:44), and he was wroth with the woman and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:17). Click here for a Bible study on Modern Prophets and Visions.
"Ellen White is the most translated woman writer in the entire history of
literature and the most translated American author of either gender. Her writings cover a broad range of subjects, including religion, education, health, social relationships, evangelism, prophecy, publishing, nutrition, and management. Her life-changing masterpiece on successful Christian living, Steps to Christ, has been published in nearly 150 languages, with well over 100 million copies in circulation. Her crowning literary achievement is the five-volume 'Conflict of the Ages' series, which traces the conflict between good and evil from its origin to its dramatic, soon-to-unfold conclusion." --from the White Estate.
A Bend in the Road
When we feel
we have nothing left to give
And we are sure
that the song has ended,
When our day seems over
and the shadows fall
And the darkness of night
Where can we go
to find the strength
keep on trying?
Where can we find
the hand that will dry
The tears that the heart
There's but one place to go
and that is to God,
all pretense and pride,
We can pour out our problems
And gain strength
with Him at our side.
And together we stand
at life's crossroads
And view what we think
is the end,
has a much bigger vision,
And He tells us
it's only a bend.
For the road goes on
and is smoother,
And the pause
in the song is a rest,
And the part that's unsung
Is the sweetest
and richest and best.
So rest and relax
and grow stronger ...
Let go and let God
share your load.
Your work is not finished
or ended ...
You've just come
to a bend in the road.
--Helen Steiner Rice
When things look bleak, when you are diagnosed with an incurable disease, when your future includes a wheelchair, when you are disfigured permanently and incapacitated by a freak accident and you feel totally hopeless and afraid and think this is the end for you, you are mistaken. You've only come to a bend in the road. The road goes on and on and it will get smoother. Take heart and courage and hang in there for your work is not finished yet. There's a story waiting to be told, a book waiting to be written, a song waiting to be sung, a backslider waiting to be led to the Lord, a mourner waiting to be comforted, a hungry person waiting to be fed, a child waiting to be loved...
And when these things are faithfully done in the Lord, we will experience peace, contentment, and joy the rest of the journey.
When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high;
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit -
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are;
It may be near when it seems afar.
So, stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things go wrong that you mustn't quit.
Related topics: Bloom Where You Are Planted! and For Such a Time As This.