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Squeezed by Life

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?…How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? … But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. -Psalm 13

Do You ever complain?
Do you ever complain to God?
Get angry with Him?
How do you feel about that?

            Did you know there is a whole group of Psalms that are characterized by complaining to   God—Psalms of Lament.
            Furthermore, there are other Biblical examples of holy people, God’s own people saying things to God we would never expect—complaining, accusing, etc.  Listen to the great prophet Jeremiah:

He tells God he is suffering for Him, he has  fed on God’s words, they were his joy and heart’s delight.
            I never sat in the company of the revelers,
              never made merry with them;
            I sat alone because you hand was on me
              and you had filled me with indignation.
            Why is my pain unending
              and my wound grievous and incurable?
            Will you be to me like a deceptive brook [“liar”-King James trans.],
              like a spring   that fails? 

            What we have here is the real life of God’s honest believer living in a world where we get squeezed by life and the practical example of how they have reacted.  These people are human, fallible, struggling, yet believing.
            I was introduced to Brian Sternberg years ago in a book by Philip Yancey called Where Is God When It Hurts.  As I was working on this I did some research and came across the following from a sermon by R.J. Tusky just last month:

            Once upon a time, Coach Grant Teaff wrote a book called “I Believe.” It’s about a young man who was once the world’s greatest pole-vaulter. His name is Brian Sternberg.
            In 1963, Brian was a sophomore at the University of Washington. He was not only the world’s best pole-vaulter, but also America’s trampoline champion. Teaff says:  “Word around track was that Brian Sternberg was the most self-centered, young athlete to come along …in a long time.”
            Teaff tells how he watched Brian perform the day he broke the world’s record. He says: “The thing that caught my eye was his poise, self-confidence, and that he never smiled.”
            The next day at breakfast, Teaff was stunned when he read the newspaper headline: “Brian Sternberg Injured.”  Brian had been working out, alone, in the gym. He did a triple somersault and came down on the trampoline …off-center. His neck hit the edge of the frame, snapping it and leaving him totally paralyzed, able to move, only …his eyes and his mouth.  Brian was left a helpless, hopeless cripple, and …a very …very …bitter  …young man.
            Five years later, Coach Teaff saw Brian again. It was at a convention for coaches and athletes at Estes Park, Colorado.
            Once everyone was seated, the auditorium was totally darkened. Suddenly, a movie projector lit a large, panoramic screen. There was Brain Sternberg …racing down the runway, executing that record-breaking pole-vault. Every coach and athlete in the room “oohed” and “aahed.”
            Then the auditorium went totally dark again …except for a single, brilliant spotlight, illuminating a single chair, with arms, on the, otherwise …bare, stark stage. It looked like some tractor-beam from a spaceship, locked onto that chair.
            Then, out of the stage-shadows, came a huge, nationally-known, football player named, Wes Wilmer. In his arms was what looked like a large ragdoll. Its long arms and legs hung limp at its sides and flopped this way and that, as Wes Wilmer walked across the stage. The ragdoll was six-foot, three-inch Brian Sternberg, all 87 pounds of him.
            Wes placed him in the chair and carefully, propped him up with pillows, so he wouldn’t fall over. Then, in a raspy voice, Brian Sternberg began to talk:
            “My friends-Oh, I pray to God that what has happened to me, will never happen to one of you.  I pray that you will never know the humiliation, the shame…of not being able to perform one …single …human …act.  Oh, I pray to God you will never know the pain I live with everyday.  It is my hope and my prayer that what has happened to me will never happen to one of you.  Unless, my friends …that’s what it takes for you to put God …in the center of your life.”
The impact of Brian’s words on that particular crowd was absolutely electrifying. No one there will ever forget them.

            I read somewhere that it was said the place to go if you wanted encouragement is Brian Sternberg’s house.
            Brian, Joni Eareckson Tada (paralyzed in a diving accident) and untold multitudes more, squeezed by life find in Jesus Christ meaning and purpose.  And they become shining examples of how life with God overcomes all obstacles.
            Brian once closed a Look magazine article this way: “Having faith is a necessary step toward one of two things. Being healed is one of them. Peace of mind, if healing doesn’t come, is the other. Either will suffice.”1

1 “The Spirituality of Suffering,” http://www.theaword.org

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