CHURCH CORNER: God helps us handle life’s obstacles

By Dan Oliva

Calvary Presbyterian

On Tuesday nights this summer, there has been great joy in the Oliva house. Why is this so? Because one of our favorite TV shows is back on. Now, I know you probably think pastors and their families should only watch “Little House on the Prairie,” or reruns of “Touched By An Angel” – but at our house, we like to watch “Wipeout!” Have you seen it? It is highbrow, cerebral entertainment, that is for sure. It is on at 8 p.m. on ABC, so get your TiVo set up right away.

If you haven’t seen “Wipeout” it is a game show with a pretty simple goal – contestants go through obstacle courses, competing for $50,000. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! These are the most gauntlet-worthy obstacles, including things like the Sucker Punch, the Dreadmill, the Sweeper and, of course, the infamous Big Red Balls. Throughout the game, contestants are weeded out, until one lucky person finishes the Wipeout Zone in the fastest time and takes the cash.

We love the show because people are voluntarily submitting themselves to all kinds of foam-covered torture: bounced off balls, flung by catapults, tripped by robotic arms, always falling into mud or cold water. Usually, by the end, even the most worn and bruised participants are smiling and laughing – and we laugh right along with them. Great family entertainment (or maybe I’m just rationalizing; is “7th Heaven” on Tuesday nights, too?)

We can laugh along with the “Wipeout” crew because people are choosing to go through obstacles and most of it is done with good fun in mind. In life, however, obstacles and challenges often appear without our consent – and we usually aren’t wearing padded gear and helmets. A lost job, a death in the family, a failed exam, a foreclosed house – these create huge obstacles in our lives. Car trouble, a rebellious child, outstanding bills, health problems – these, too, can be overwhelming challenges.

The Bible is filled with people who know exactly what it is like to face difficulty. In one of his letters, the Apostle Paul writes, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Can you relate to these feelings? I know I can. Maybe this should be the “life verse” for every “Wipeout” contestant, too.

Luckily, the story doesn’t end there – the Bible also offers us encouragement and hope. In one of the great poems of the Bible, Psalm 40, we find these words: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (I’m sure the original music that accompanied it was great, but check out U2’s version from 1983!)

Those are hopeful words, aren’t they? God listens to those of us who are in the pit, who are neck-deep in mud. God cares about those of us who are broken, beaten down and at the end of our rope. Do you feel like that right now? If so, if you feel like you just took on the Gears of Doom and lost; be encouraged by the words above. Be strengthened and find hope, knowing that there is a God who listens and who is near, even in the midst of life’s greatest obstacle courses.

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