1999 started out as a banner year. Several concepts that I was working on were adopted by the powers to be. I tested and passed my testing for my second decided black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I was in great physical condition, working out four to five times a week. Overall, life was good. My prayer life was developing and I felt closer to God than ever. Then July rolled around. Talk about good times coming to an abrupt halt and falling like a rock.
July I scheduled some time off, it was the first break from work in over a year. Before taking leave, I was having some breathing problems and the doctor thought it was exercise-induced asthma. I thought it was living in New Jersey that caused it, because when I got to North and South Carolina the problem seemed to dissipate. We were driving back from North Carolina when the first inkling that something else was wrong surfaced. About 5 hours into the trip, I got severe cramping in my right leg. I tried stretching it out, but that didnít work. When I returned home, I continued running and working out at Tae Kwon Do, but the pain in my right calf did not go away. Not only was I having the pain in my calf, but also, I was having difficulty with breathing. I thought, Welcome Back to Jersey, Brucie!
Not being one, who enjoys hearing his wife complain, I decided to go to the doctor. It was a good thing too. That night the doctor admitted me into the hospital, and the next day I found out that I had blood clots in my right leg and pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. Luckily, the clots did not break loose and go somewhere that would have made it more life threatening (i.e. brain or the heart).
After the one-week hospital stay, I was placed on convalescent leave to gain some strength back. The next two months turned out to be the most trying time of my life. I never seemed to get better. The first disease to rack my body was bronchitis. After bronchitis, I developed gout. The medicine I received for the gout gave me a severe case of diarrhea. Not only was my health suffering, but also our financial situation was in dire straight. The stocks in my portfolio were severely depressed, causing me to have to come up with more money, of which we did not have. With the physical and the financial aspects of my life ripped out from under me, the only thing that the Lord had not touched was the emotional. Well! That is when the knockout punch came. I was passed over for promotion to the next highest rank, Chief Warrant Officer Three. Depression, self doubt, self-absorption was the best I could muster. I felt I was the modern day version of Job and was fearful of what else was on the way. I feebly thanked God for deeming me worthy to suffer as I was. I knew God would only give me as much as I could handle, so in order to console myself, I thought, well at least God thinks highly of me.
Totally beaten down, I had nowhere else to turn except to God. I cried out to Him, "GOD, THIS WORLD IS JUST NOT FAIR!" To my surprise, He answered me. Do you want to know what He said? He said, "Youíre right, but what are you doing to change that reality for someone else?" What, I could not believe what I was hearing. God continued, "I gave you two eyes which look outward so that you can see the pain that others suffer, and console and love them. If youíre focus is outward, your troubles will seem pale in comparison to that of your brother and sister." Not getting the answer I wanted, but the one I needed to hear, I started looking at the needs of others, and you know God was/is right. I saw a friend who just recently loss his wife to cancer and was now battling TB himself. I saw the homeless man, Brian, at our church who loss his toes to frost bite, and will now loose both legs because of gangrene.
All round me, there were brothers and sisters crying out and I missed it because my focus was wrong. Imagine how this world would be if everyone took the time to see anotherís pain and encourage that person in his or her daily struggles, on this road we call life. Would this caring usher in the Second Coming of Christ? Would we be living in Paradise in the here and now instead of waiting for our death, or Christís return? Is that what makes heaven, heaven?
For just a moment, stop reading and open your mind to the reality that is God. Thank Him for the many blessing that He has given you. Thank Him; too, for the struggles and obstacles placed along your path; because it has helped you to understand the struggles others are going through. How could we console a brother or sister if we never experienced the grief that is in this world? How could we tell a nonbeliever to trust in God, but upon the slightest distraction or hard time loose our own faith? Think about those that have made a difference in your life an ask yourself, was it their strength that you admired, or their weakness? Two people that I admire are Joni Erickson Tada and Billy Graham. Joni, a quadriplegic who inspires us with her vision of heaven, her art work and her song filled heart, and Dr. Graham who continues to proclaim Godís word even though heís up in years and has Parkinsonís Disease. Look around you there are heroes all about. Itís these unsung heroes whom I believe will have the greatest reward in heaven. See the single mother who has given her whole life to the raising of her children. The unemployed father who somehow makes ends meet. Or, the child who is terminally ill who comforts his mother and father before going home to be with the Lord.
As I finished the last paragraph, I got distracted. Somehow, I started to sing Iím in the Lordís Army. And we are! Each one of us has to fight battles each and every day, just to make it through. There are struggles happening all around us, of which we have no appreciation. Like all good soldiers, we earn our ribbons of valor. In this world, those ribbons may appear to be weaknesses, but in heaven, those weaknesses are made strengths and we are rewarded for struggling through them.
Yes, the world is not fair, but hear Godís word, "What are you doing to chance that reality for someone else?" Where your focus is, is ultimately where your heart will be. If your eyes are focused inwardly, most likely you are going to be bitter and callous and stumble through the rest of your life here in this world. If your eyes are focused outwardly, most likely each day will be filled with new joys and a sense of being closer to God. I hope Jesus doesnít mind but I want to add one more to His list of beatitude; blessed are those that see the needs of others, for in doing so their needs shall also be met.
"See, I told you!" ;-)