The image of a squat and forlorn little bird and the text of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 seemed to capture my predicament at the time exactly.
But I have kept that plaque and referred to it often through the years when I encountered other struggles and trying times that my 22-year-old self could never have imagined.
It reminds me that the Word of the Lord can meet us again and again with the same words in whatever plight we may be experiencing and their effect on us can be just as powerful and uplifting as it was before.
I love the language of this text:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. Hard pressed: The world is putting on the pressure HARD. The text dow not sugar-coat it. Life is hard. We are getting pressure from every angle. I think of the demands of work, family, home, church, all pushing on us. But not crushed: The Bible assures us that we are stronger than we perhaps realize. We can handle it. Nothing will serve as a crushing blow to us when we have Christ within us.
Perplexed, but not in despair. The Bible allows that we can be confused, frustrated, even angry about how our lives are going. That is OK. But never let that angst turn into despair, to giving up on God, to giving up on ourselves, to giving up on others. We cannot throw in the towel when God is fighting for us.
Persecuted, but not abandoned. When Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, the threat of being persecution for their faith was very real. And it can be very real for us. Suffering in many forms is a given when it comes to being a Christian in this world. Sin and the devil will make sure of that! But we know that we will never be left alone to fend for ourselves. We have our triune God providing for, loving and comforting us in whatever struggle we find ourselves. And our God will never go away.
Struck down but not destroyed. I think of being struck down by an illness or struck down by a harsh word or struck down by rejection. Again, the Bible is clear: You will be knocked down. But you will never be obliterated. Even a dimly burning wick, God will not snuff out, Isaiah tells us. Christ has destroyed the power of death, hell, sin and the devil through his life, death and resurrection. But he will never destroy us.
We will always have a place in the palm of his hand. Take that, life!