THE SAGA OF THE LOST POSITIONS AND MEDALS

To not have something that you wish, is a loss.

To let go of something that you cherish, is a loss.

To have something, yet not have it entirely to yourself is a loss.

Myriad are such experiences that life brings across!

 Life often spins mixed blessings. It was the day my Grade 12 results were to be declared. I was waiting with a lot of anticipation as I had worked very hard at my studies. My teachers were expecting me to make it to the State Merit List and I as well as my family were hopeful for that to happen too. In my heart of hearts, I was secretly hoping to see my name as the state topper in Humanities – though any position in the State Merit List would bring satisfaction! The result was declared by the State Education Minister and was telecasted LIVE. Along with the statistics, the name of the topper was declared. It was not me! While there was a sinking feeling, I knew that I would surely be in the List. It would still take some more time for the result to be available on the internet. So, my loving father sped to my college where generally the result list is made available. A few hours later, he entered the colony gate honking his bike as much as possible. As I rushed outside, he showed two fingers. My joy knew no bounds to realize that I was in the second position in the State Merit List.

My teachers called to congratulate me and asked for my detail marks. As I told my marks to one of my teachers, she was astonished at my internal marks in one particular subject. Six marks had been reduced from what the examiner had given me!! And I had missed the first position by just two marks. Everyone was very upset. The initial joy dampened. Heated discussions went on in my college. My parents were very sad. Talks of an enquiry, made the rounds – as it was a clear cut case of deliberate tampering.

That is when, I put my foot down saying that I thank God for whatever He has given me. God is in control of the entire universe and of every aspect of my life as well. Out of 1.6 lakhs candidates who appeared the exam that year, if God could take me to the second position, He could have very well prevented the misdeed and taken me to the top. If He didn’t, it was for a purpose known best to Him. So, no need for any enquiry.

And thus, I missed out on a Gold Medal!

What came to my mind as a 17-year old then was – Did I do something wrong because of which God kept back this blessing from me? I did some soul-searching, because after all, as children we are taught that God punishes us for our wrongs. But, then God reminded me a verse from Psalm – If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” And then another verse – as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Both these verses together spoke to me loud and clear that time.

While there is a human consequence for every wrong action, God does does not deal with us as our wrongdoings deserve. Had He been dealing with us as our actions deserve, none of us would have survived. Sin is so grossly disagreeable with God! Rather, God deals with us with immense patience and grace, teaching us to depend on Him and trust Him for everything against all odds.

Three years later . . .

I was waiting for my Graduation result. The result was declared. I had topped the University in my subject. I was thrilled. But, here too there was a dampener! My University awarded Gold Medals only to few subjects which had sponsorship. My subject was not on the list.

Yet again, lost the opportunity to be awarded a Gold Medal . . . this time, even after being the University topper!!

Two years later . . .

I completed my Post Graduation. The examination was tough, but had gone well for me. I was the only one in my department to have done an empirical research as my Dissertation, while all others in my batch had done Review work. My work was appreciated by the external examiner and has been published in a national journal (http://medind.nic.in/jak/t09/s1/jakt09s1p40.pdf). Everyone knew that I would be the highest scorer that year. But when the result came out, I was devastated to know that I was in the second position and my friend whom I had helped a lot during the preparation phase, was  the topper. That day, I broke down! I just couldn’t believe it. It was next to impossible.

Years later, I got to know the inside story. A tiff between two of my Professors had led to one of them reducing my marks even after the result was finalized.

Lost a final opportunity to get a Gold Medal!

That is when God comforted me by reminding the verse from the Bible from the book of Revelation that speaks about Heaven – Each of the twelve gates was a solid pearl. The streets of the city were made of pure gold, clear as crystal.” I told myself, that accomplishments in this world would last for a while. Each year there would be some new person who would be awarded a medal . . . and my name would soon get replaced with someone else’s. Moreover, I would leave behind the accolades when I die. So, what is it to crib and cry if I didn’t get to wear a Gold Medal around my neck! I was joyful in praising God for His bountiful mercies . . . as He made me realize these precious truths.

Dear reader, you may have lost something very precious in your life – something/someone that is irreplaceable. Don’t be dejected. God is in complete control of your life. It may not make sense now perhaps, as you count your losses. But, if you believe in the assurance of His control, His peace will reign over your heart, as was in my case.

BE YE COMPASSIONATE COMFORTERS

Ever had those nervous moments such as waiting for your turn to face the interview panel or being the next in line for a stage performance? Clammy palms, fidgety toes, twirling hair ends or biting nails?? Been there?

And did you feel better if someone came by and wrapped an encouraging arm around you or gave you an encouraging pat on the back? I bet you did feel a lot better!

Humans need comfort at varying times. Stress, anxiety, disease, worry, financial debt, death – all call for comfort and consolation. At times just a silent presence is the best comforter for an aching soul. While at other times, words or acts of comfort are necessary.

Well rehearsed words of comfort or a gesture of formality serve to console the speaker/doer more than the person(s) in need for comfort.

As I write this, I am reminded about a person called Job mentioned in the Bible:

He lived in a place beyond present-day Euphrates. Job has been described as a man who was ‘blameless and upright, and the one who feared God and shunned evil.’ He was a wealthy and respectable man with a happy family. However, in one day he lost his enormous wealth by natural and human hazards. As if that was not enough, all his ten children died at one go when the house in which they were feasting together, collapsed. To add to his misery, Job developed a horrible skin disease and his body was covered with stinking sores. Instead of standing by him during these tough times, his wife taunted him saying, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job’s pain and suffering was intense.

At this juncture, three of his friends who got the news of Job’s misfortune came to visit him together to mourn with him, and to comfort him. But when they saw Job from far, they could not recognize him. At this they lifted their voice and wept. They could not believe their eyes! So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.

After these seven days of silence, each of them spoke up – lengthy speeches. Each of them jumped to various conclusions. The common essence of their speeches was that – only the wicked suffer this way and that Job was suffering because he had done something wrong. They repeatedly encouraged Job to admit his wrong and repent so that God would put an end to his suffering and bless him again. After hearing them out, Job says, “What miserable comforters, all of you!”

Oftentimes, aren’t we quick to jump into conclusions on seeing people in distress? At times, yes the wrong-doing of the person may have led to disastrous consequences. But, that is not always the case. As in Job’s case, we see later, that it was a test of his faith and uprightness and not a punishment for any wrongdoing.

We do not have the answer to all the whys of life – in our own lives and in those of others. A newly married girl loses her husband – why? The much awaited baby is born with a fatal disease – why? Cancer robs a little girl of her loving father – why? A family travelling for a good cause die in accident – why? Parents shot dead in a case of burglary, leaving the children as orphans – why?

Well, we don’t have the answers to events that God in His Sovereignty permits to happen, though He never causes them. ‘Why do bad things happen to good people’ is an often asked question. There is a book by this very name written by a Jewish Rabbi named Harold S. Kushner in which he tries to reason out and come to terms with the death of his son at the age of 14 in 1977 of the incurable genetic disease, Progeria.

Reasons are not always necessary to comfort and console others – a heart of compassion is.

Bear in mind the following when attempting to comfort and console anyone in distress:

  • Do not attach meaning to any event just by looking at the surface of it
  • Pause and put yourself in the same situation
  • Do not be hasty to speak too much
  • Do not add spice to sad events and spread them all around
  • Even if the consequence is a clear action of wrong doing, do not jump to get the credit for pointing it out
  • Speak the language of comfort that the person would understand – silent presence, a warm comforting hug, actions of comfort, few non-judgemental words of consolation
  • Do not accuse.
  • Do not point to generational flaws (mistakes of parents or grandparents)
  • Do not be hasty to provide solutions
  • Make your presence a balm of comfort for the suffering person
  • Allow the person to give a vent to his/her feelings (may be shouts of anger, tears of sorrow, denial, stoic silence)
  • There isn’t an apply-to-all-situations formula for comfort. So, act according to the situation.
  • Most importantly, pray for the person. The God of comforts will provide the peace that passes all understanding.

Anti-depressants, comfort foods, alcohol, drugs and other various addictions never bring the comfort that the heart requires. They, at best, numb the pain for a while. If you are hurting today and there is none to comfort you, I want to assure you that your Creator cares for you and will make Himself known to you if you lean on Him.

Let us be alert towards hurting people around us – in our families, workplaces, neighborhoods and even our helpers. It doesn’t cost to comfort. Rather it is richly rewarding to restore a soul from the depths of distress to the heights of relief!

PRESERVE YOUR NECTAR

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago. Blessed with a lovely family consisting of his wife and five children (four daughters and a son), Spafford had all that one would desire. It was then that tragedy struck. His two-year old son died of pnemonia. As he was grieving over this loss, the same year (1871), the great Chicago fire swallowed up much of his business. Gathering much courage, Spafford started rebuilding his business. But the economic downturn of 1873 further hit his business. He changed his plans to travel to Europe with his family – sending them first, promising to join them soon. As the ship carrying his wife and children was crossing the Atlantic, it collided with another sea vessel. All four of his daughters died in the mishap. Only his wife was rescued and she sent Spafford the telegram – “Saved alone.” Spafford hurried to meet his grieving wife saying, “The Lord gave and he has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” As his ship came to the place where his daughters had died, he penned a wonderful hymn which has been a source of encouragement for many, over the years. The first few lines read as follows –

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

(The hymn can be heard in the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKPvBV4xqVw )

Joseph Scriven was a man born in Ireland in an affluent family and received good education. In course of time, he fell in love with a lady. However, the day before their wedding she fell from her horse, while crossing a bridge in the River Bann and was drowned in the water below. All this, as Scriven stood watching from the other side of the river! In an effort to overcome his deep sorrow, Joseph left Ireland and shifted to Canada as a 25-year old, where he was much loved by the people for his helpful ways. In course of time, he again fell in love. However, tragedy struck again and his lady-love died of pneumonia shortly before they could wed. Scriven devoted the rest of his life to helping the poor and the needy. In order to comfort his ailing mother who lived in Ireland and was broken at her son’s ordeals, he wrote a poem which was later converted into a hymn and has been a source of comfort and strength to many. A few lines of the hymn read thus –

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

(The hymn can be heard in the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SCorW9r_Is )

Friends, may be you have been where Spafford and Scriven have been and that has made you bitter – at yourself, at family, friends, society. Maybe your life events have not been of this type – but harsh, nevertheless. How has your response been?

It is easy to be bitter and remain bitter. If we turn around and observe people around us, we will notice that each one has a heavy burden to make him/her bitter – only the nature may be different (some born without fully grown limbs, some widowed within a day of marriage, some stricken with terminal illness, some battling marital separation, failures, poverty, etc.)

Let’s remember –

  • Each of us has ample scope to be bitter.
  • To remain bitter or overcome is a choice that has to be made.
  • A bitter spirit depletes the body and numbs the soul.
  • Forgiveness is a powerful weapon that defeats bitterness.
  • Accepting the Sovereignty of God plays a crucial role in coming to terms with bitterness.
  • Counting the numerous other blessings enables to shift focus from the bitterness-causing losses.

If you have been struck with life events that threaten to make you bitter, don’t allow these events/circumstances to suck the nectar out of you. Look unto God – the radiant source of Strength, Grace, Mercy, Love, Peace and Joy and with His power be an overcomer!