If there is one thing you can count on in your life, it’s that your path will not always be easy.
It happens to all of us sometimes. Everything seems to be going well for you, and then suddenly a turn of events brings discouragement and frustration, and you feel like you just want to give up.
Maybe you’ve racked up so many bad decisions that you’ve almost put any kind of happiness out of reach. You might feel as though you are at the end of your rope, just hanging on for dear life. Or it seems like after a good start you are now running dead last in the race of life, and the finish line looks so far away that you might wonder if you can make it at all.
Our lives are filled with setbacks – those times when things just aren’t going our way, when victory seems out of our grasp, when happiness and contentment seem downright impossible. Occasional setbacks are probably unavoidable – part of the struggle of living in a fallen world. Other setbacks are due to our own sin and failures, or circumstances outside our control. But God has an answer for our every setback; he wants to orchestrate a comeback in our lives.
I know because I’ve been there. I can relate.
It’s a miracle that I am where I am today, the pastor of a large church in Dallas who regularly speaks in front of large groups of people. Let me tell you something I don’t talk about very often. Maybe you’ll find it encouraging.
When I was younger, I had a terrible problem with stuttering. It was hard to get through a sentence without hesitation and a bunch of distracting little fillers, like “…umm…” and “…er…” For years, just getting a complete sentence out of my mouth on the first try was nearly impossible.
Soon after my conversion I knew I wanted to be a speaker who would share about Christ to a room full of listeners. But who would have the patience to listen through all my stuttering?
My parents and doctors didn’t know why I stuttered, and they didn’t know how to help me. I couldn’t express my thoughts clearly, and it looked like I might have to give up my dreams of becoming a speaker.
Comebacks don’t seem likely when your back is up against the wall and your hope is depleted. But if you will stay the course, you will discover God’s power to reverse the irreversible in your life.
But God, in his wisdom, had chosen to use me -- even as a broken mouthpiece for him. I wouldn’t give up even though the circumstances were lined up against me. I was tempted to let go of my dream, but instead I held on to God.
My comeback didn’t happen overnight. I had to work, I had to practice, I had to pray, and I had to get some help from trained speech therapists.
And God gave me a comeback. Today I speak in front of people all the time. Every Sunday, I preach two sermons, each nearly an hour in length, to thousands of people. And I regularly travel around the country for speaking engagements. I’ve spoken in front of crowds as large as a million people. I never hesitate to say yes to an opportunity to share my faith in front of an audience.
Me, the kid who couldn’t speak a single sentence with clarity or confidence due to my stuttering. Some would have counted me out, but God never did. And I never gave up because it wasn’t easy.
I could tell you a lot of other stories about how God has provided comebacks in my life, such as when it seemed academically and financially impossible for me to go to seminary. None of the circumstances were in my favor, and I was sometimes tempted to quit trying. I didn’t have the money and I didn’t have the grades. And the school I wanted to attend was one that rarely admitted African-Americans at that time.
It would have been easy to give up and lower my goals. But God provided a comeback. Though I was only accepted on probation, I worked hard, and with God’s help I turned around my academic record. I eventually graduated with honors and became the first African-American to graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary with an earned doctoral degree.
Comebacks don’t seem likely when your back is up against the wall and your hope is depleted. But if you will stay the course, you will discover God’s power to reverse the irreversible in your life. Look to him always, honor him first, and then watch him blow your mind.