I miss Calvin and Hobbes. I especially loved Calvin’s transmogrifying machine. Really just a cardboard box, he used it to change himself—and any other willing subject—into dinosaurs, worms, or chickens. No request was too extreme or beyond the amazing ability of the transmogrifying machine to whisk away your present trouble by transforming you into whatever life form that didn’t have those problems.
Lots of times I’ve wished for that machine. Oh, not that cardboard box, of course. But something that would zap away my problems, pain, or circumstances. Or at least change them a little.
Recently I had a dream about a mother who had many handicapped children, some severely. Several were in wheelchairs, others suffered from cystic fibrosis, paralysis, or Down syndrome. Overwhelmed with the both the number of children and the complexity of handicaps, I sympathized with her and said I was sorry that she had so many burdens. She looked at me with genuine surprise and said “I have no burdens. Only joys.” I can still see her genuine smile and radiant eyes.
I am captivated by the radiant joy of that dream woman with all of the children. She wasn’t just enduring the handicapped children; she was cherishing and enjoying them. Her joy came from inside, a deep artesian well. I have known real people like her, people whose spirits weren’t crushed by pain or handicap, but rose above it somehow. Instead of wishing for a transmogrifying machine to zap away their problems, they attain a new level of life, as though their problems become stairs to a higher plane of living.
The apostle Paul wanted to escape his troubles, too. He suffered with a recurring problem that was very painful. He called it his “thorn in the flesh.” When he begged God to remove it, God replied that, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). No mention of an easy exit.
Difficulties place us in a hallway from which two doors open. We can choose the door that leads us to God and a deeper understanding through the pain or we can take the door marked Exit which in reality leaves us wallowing with questions like “If only…” and “Why me?”
God’s goal is always to move us beyond the physical to the spiritual when true victory is won. God is eternally present. No victories are won in the past or the future. He is the source of overflowing hope, joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, perseverance, and goodness. Every day He gives me occasions for gladness and opportunities to draw closer to Him. Through pain he opens doors of opportunity to learn more about Him, to meditate upon His character, and to spend time with Him. Spending time with God is the greatest gift and the one we most often squander. It’s the gift nobody seems to want.