The prisoner dictated a letter to some of his dearest friends hundreds of miles away in another country. He told them that he was in chains—most likely chained to his jailer, as that was the custom of the time. Ironically, he had previously been in jail in the city in which his friends lived.1 On that occasion he had been beaten and imprisoned—illegally, it turned out—in the city’s most secure cell. He was considered an atheist2 and a rabble-rouser, and was well-known to authorities throughout the empire who were glad to get him off the streets whenever they could.
It hadn't always been that way. There had been a time when he was dedicated to enforcing the law. He had even been an officially sanctioned vigilante who went about brutally clearing his area of miscreants, men, women, and children alike.3 That had been a task he relished. But that had been long ago. Now he was on the other side of the fence, and his former colleagues were complicit in his censure and imprisonment.
My son's voice broke as he spoke, "Mom, I don't know what's happening. I just moved my family in order to take a new job, but now that job has fallen through!"
I did my best to encourage him, but as the minutes went by, I could tell I wasn’t getting through the wall of anguish.
After hanging up, I couldn’t get my son’s situation out of my mind. Finally I stopped everything else to pray about what he was going through. My son and his wife are active Christians and responsible young parents. I knew that he would do the best he could to support his family, but I knew, too, that the worldwide economic slump meant it was even more difficult than usual to get a good job.
A friend was showing me a photo that he took at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden—a large park in the middle of bustling Tokyo. It showed a brilliant blue sky with green trees framing it. When I complimented him on a beautiful shot, my friend looked amused. “Actually, you’re looking at it upside down. This is the reflection of the sky on the lake.”
I looked closer and saw that he was right. What I had thought was scenery was actually its reflection on the lake’s surface, almost like an optical illusion. I was amazed at how clearly the sky and surroundings were reflected in the still water. It made me think how wonderful it would be if my life could so perfectly reflect heaven’s peace and stillness.
There is an adage, "Good is the enemy of best" The point is that settling for something that is merely good may mean that something better is never attained. It seems to be a cultural imperative these days that we never settle for less than what we believe will prove to be the absolute best for us. But I'm coming to a different conclusion.
In my personal quest for the best possible outcome in each and every situation, I’m seeing that I have sometimes passed up some good possibilities; because I was worried that just around that next corner could be what I really, really, really wanted, I failed to take advantage of the opportunity at hand. In such cases, it seems to me that “best” is really the enemy of “good.” Going for the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow caused me to miss the beauty of the rainbow. I would probably be happier if I embraced the journey, rather than always being fixated on reaching my next goal.
1. Count your blessings. Expressing gratitude does wonders to lift your spirit. There is spiritual power in praise that can counterbalance whatever is weighing on you.
2. Get in touch with Jesus. He loves and cares for you, and He’s got the solution to every problem. Talk to Him about how you feel; read God’s Word; bolster your faith by holding on to promises from His Word.
It was just a little thing, that smile on my baby's face, but it changed my perspective on life.
As he woke and looked up at me, he was looking at what mattered most in the world to him—me! He didn’t care that I was dressed in mismatched pajamas, my hair a mess. He just loved me and loved being with me. He didn’t need perfection; love made it all right. That moment of holding him and taking in those rays of love clarified something I’d been thinking about earlier.
It was a particularly hot, muggy summer day, and Jeffrey and I had already been traveling for a few hours when we plopped down in a stuffy bus station waiting room in northern Italy. "Did I really have to come?" he muttered.
How had I gotten this idea? Dragging a 14-year-old away from his friends to visit his grandparents—not exactly a teenager’s idea of fun!
We had another hour before we needed to catch the bus that would take us the rest of the way, and I didn’t know which was worse—the stale air in the waiting room or the thick air between us. “Would you like some ice cream?” I asked.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."1
We all know what it’s like to have our lives beset by problems. Financial difficulties, inclement weather, or even rush-hour traffic can cast a pall over our spirits.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Holy Spirit can help us rise above our problems, big or small, and cause us to be happy and cheerful in spite of circumstances.
Question: I’ve been happier than ever since finding Jesus, but I still have problems and sometimes get quite down. My friends try to cheer me up and tell me to “put on my happy face,” but how can I smile and look happy when I really don’t feel that way? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?
Answer: It is not being hypocritical to put on a happy face even when you don’t feel happy. It’s a sign of inner strength and maturity. It shows you realize that whatever is dragging you down at the moment is relatively small in the grand scope of things, and that it will pass.
A rather odd thought popped into my head last Thanksgiving Eve, out of the blue: “I am thanksgiving.” I think the Thanksgiving holiday is great! What’s not to love about a day centered on a bright spot in history, gratefulness, family, and good food? Then again, I also love Christmas, for mostly the same reasons, but I would never say “I am Christmas.”
I went for a run on Thanksgiving morning and, amid the gold and red autumn leaves that adorned the trees along my way, reviewed the year to that point. It would come to a close soon, and although it hadn’t been all smooth sailing, I had thoroughly enjoyed it, even the challenging bits. Most of the things I had been concerned about had either already been resolved or solutions were in the works. The answer to one rather substantial personal dilemma that I had been struggling with for some time had come to me in a flash just a couple of days earlier. I was surprised I hadn’t seen it sooner. It was so simple and beautiful! I was happy and grateful and already telling my family and friends about it.