Friday night my high school class had a joint 70th Birthday party. We all turn 70 this year--some earlier than others, but by December 31, we will all have entered a new decade. When I boldly spoke the truth that this could possibly be our last new decade birthday, I was almost booted out of the room. The facts are that about a third of our class has already left us, and we have now all lived the three score and ten mentioned in The Word. I am NOT a pessimist--a realist perhaps, but do not look upon this as tragic news.
If you look closely at the picture, you see a happy group celebrating the latest milestone together. Smiling faces with laughter twinkling from our eyes reflecting a group with much to be thankful for.
What you cannot see in this picture is the story behind each smile. Almost everyone of us have lost our parents, and some have lost siblings; some have lost their spouse of many years; one has 26 stents around his heart; one is suffering from chronic lung disease; some are helping to raise grandchildren; some have divorced after long marriages; some are estranged from their children; some are nursing others with debilitating-chronic illnesses; some are battling cancer; and the list goes on and on. Though the picture reflects a happy group, life has thrown devastating bomb shells at many of us and yet we smile, laugh, and reflect over warm memories of growing up in a Mayberryisque childhood.
Here are the hikers at the top of some mountain on one of our many trips. We all seem very satisfied and happy to have reached this pinnacle and relishing the view. Every face has a smile, some are even posed as if they are models on a photo shoot. You would never guess we are more than likely standing on exhausted legs covered in the dirt and grime of the trail, and wondering if we have the strength to get all the way back down to the trail head behind us on the lake. Sometimes going down is much more treacherous than hiking up as evidenced by all of my multiple falls having occurred while going down.
Here is a picture of a happy group working together after the flood in south Louisiana. We spent a great deal of time laughing that day in the midst of some of the worst devastation I have ever seen. The smiling faces are hiding the grief, dismay, and sheer exhaustion suffered while trying to dismantle a house in a couple of days that took a lifetime to build. As you filter through and toss to the street all the material possessions of a couple in their late seventies, it weighs you down with compassion and an over whelming sense of being helpless to fix it for them.
And yet, we all stand and smile, laugh, and bond together in the midst of the sure knowledge that life has been difficult, kicked some in the gut, and knocked the blocks out from others. The human spirit is able to look for the best, hope for a better tomorrow, and bear the unbearable. God has created us with eternal optimism and abundant hope--even when we have lived through or are living with some of the worst of things. What a gift!
SO--point of this story--when you see smiling faces that look perfectly happy and content with life in pictures all over the internet---there is ALWAYS MORE TO THE STORY! You are not alone in having endured difficult times , you are not the only one who is living with back breaking hards, and life is never all peaches and cream for ANYONE! Look at those pictures and remember there is story that you are not hearing. Look at those pictures and be thankful we can all cling to the rock of our salvation and know the hope that comes only with Jesus. Look at those pictures and reflect on the good, learn from the bad, and remember the sorrows of today will fade with the dawning of eternity when there will be no more tears--only joy.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.