When life gets tough

I feel like I’ve told you most of the highlights of my trip to the Dominican Republic by now.  But I’ve decided there is one child I missed, because his face won’t get out of my head.  He was one of the children in the 9-11 year old class that I visited on my last day there. The kids were just getting ready to do their devotions when we all showed up, and they carried on, seemingly un-phased by the ring of strangers gathered around their little patio classroom.  First came the singing, including You Saw Me When Nobody Saw Me.  Then a little boy stood up and proceeded to read us a story out of the Bible.

I was impressed with how fluently the boy read.  Because of the class he was in, I know he couldn’t have been more than 11. I currently have three 10-year-olds, and know for a fact that plenty of kids years older  don’t read that expressively and well, especially the Bible.

Once he had gotten done reading, our interpretor read us the same story in English.  It was the story of Peter trying to walk to Jesus on the water. After the interpreter finished reading the story in English, she said, “Now, he is going to explain the story to you.”

And he began. I was expecting a sentence or two that highlighted the key point of the story, similar to what I ask from my children in their daily Bible journal.  But he went on. And on. For three minutes he spoke earnestly, pausing only to give the interpreter time to relay his words to us.

There are difficult times in life, he said, times when we may be afraid, times when we feel like we are sinking. We shouldn’t try to walk alone. This is the time to reach out to Jesus. Jesus will pull us up out of the water, and bring us into the boat.  He spoke eloquently and in detail.

I looked at his handsome face and thought of the rough and ragged neighborhood just beyond the gates of this Compassion project.   The filthy water going down the middle of streets.  The tin shacks and the barred windows and the need for us tourists to leave our valuables in the van so desperate people won’t steal.

This was where he lived.   I wondered about the difficulty he had faced in life.  You could tell he’d seen challenges, plenty of them, because he owned those words. His understanding went way beyond head knowledge, beyond trite Sunday school phrases. He spoke with conviction and with power.

He knew without a doubt where his source of strength was in life.

And he laid his faith out fearlessly to his friends, to his teacher, and to the ring of strangers standing around his outdoor classroom with its chipped formica tabletops and tiny rickety chairs.

I thought again of my precious children, my privileged children, and the ease they’ve had in life. We in the Western world consider it a blessing when children grow up having everything they need. And yet I stood marveling at the rare and obvious strength that God had grown in this young man through trial.

In the midst of bad water and rickety houses and outdoor schoolrooms, powerful work is happening in a young boy’s heart.

I am so afraid of trial.  I avoid it.  I complain when my plans are thwarted.  I take all sorts of measure to stay comfortable, to keep my life easy, to protect that to which I think I am entitled.

I’m not going to pray for adversity, because I’m just not that brave.  But I want to always remember that little wise-beyond-his-years boy.  And when adversity comes– as it always does– I pray that I will have similar courage. Courage to lean on God as my source of strength. Courage to survive– to thrive. And to share my source of strength with those around me.


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  1. I very much needed to hear that this week. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for sharing that story. I need to remember the power of adversity and suffering: In God’s hands, they polish and refine.

  3. This subject has been on my mind a lot lately too; thanks for sharing your thoughts and insight 🙂

  4. This story spoke to me today andI know exactly why. Last night I went to hear author, Jeannette Walls, of The Glass Castle. I don’t know if you have read this book or not but if not, I can’t recommend it highly enough. This book is Jeannette’s memoirs — through the eyes of a child. She did not have an easy childhood. It’s a story of difficulties, of poverty, of strength. Strength to overcome. Those of us who read it and have had an easy life see only the shortcomings of her parents. She however has realized that through the difficulties, her parents gave her gifts. Gifts to survive, to overcome. She said that a gift is wrapped in every difficult situation if only we choose to see it and receive it. A very wise woman.

    Now get yourself to the library or on-line for this book.

  5. Such a beautiful post. I hold this little boy in my heart today.

  6. God is sending me messages of courage from EVERY direction today and as I brace myself for whatever is ahead I am thankful that He is in control. Here’s a link you might find encouraging today – I know I do.


  7. Aww, you made my eyes leak again. But in a good way.

  8. I stumbled upon your website and really loved this story. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Wow, that was such a moving story. God is always at work, even (especially?) when we think everything has gone wrong.

  10. Amen, my friend. Amen.

  11. like others here…i needed to read that this week too. thanks for sharing. what an amazing experience you had.

  12. Another story that moved my heart. Thank you.

  13. Thank-you for sharing this story about a beautiful young life. Another example of God’s amazing grace.

  14. beautiful

  15. I do not share your faith, but I do share your awe of human strength. Beautiful post!