Norris, a sixty-six-year-old African-American gentleman, was admitted to Hospice and died one month later. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Portsmouth for work when he was a young man. He worked construction and then for the railroad for thirteen years until he became disabled.
Norris was a student at heart and enjoyed reading the Bible. He was a free-thinker. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Norris wasn’t “… a parrot sitting on its artificial perch just repeating what it had been taught to say,” (“Keys to the Deeper Life”, A.W. Tozer). Norris meditated on God’s word, analyzing and synthesizing; reaching his own conclusions; working out his own salvation. We are all commissioned to and responsible for working out what God has worked in us. (Philippians 2:12-15). Norris was not a perfect man, but he was a forgiven man, and much of his wisdom came the hard way.
It seemed we established an immediate bond. We were reviewing the developmental stages and challenges of his life when Norris concluded, “Life isn’t easy. Life wasn’t made to be easy. I’ve found that anything that’s worth something is hard. It makes you feel real good when you accomplish something hard. That should tell you something.” I asked Norris what the most difficult challenge of his life had been and he replied, “Just doing what’s right when other people aren’t; when other people are putting barriers in front of you. We will struggle with this all our lives. We all struggle with trying to follow what’s good or right when we are in an imperfect state. We will never be perfect because you can’t make something perfect out of something imperfect. It will never happen. Through one man’s sin (Adam) we are all imperfect, but through one man’s perfection (Jesus) we can all be saved.” We concluded and confessed that neither of us would ever outgrow the need for God’s inspiration, mercy and grace.
Norris accepted the fact that life is difficult. Most of us murmur and complain when we encounter challenges and problems. We are like the Hebrew people who Moses led out of Egypt after four-hundred years of slavery. Every time things got difficult they “murmured “and complained. (Books of Exodus and Numbers). They even talked about going back to Egypt. Their end was tragic; instead of entering the Promise Land, they wandered for forty years in the wilderness, going around in circles, until the entire generation perished, except for Joshua and Caleb, who trusted and believed. I believe the same can happen to us, emotionally and spiritually. When we murmur and complain, refusing to accept and embrace the problems and challenges before us, our lives can become a barren wilderness. We can find ourselves wandering in circles, failing to enter into God’s Promise Land.
M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book, “The Road Less Traveled” declares, “Life is difficult…Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead, they moan more or less incessantly, noisily subtly, about the enormity of their problems…as if life should be easy…Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or do we want to solve them… it is in the process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom.”
The next time we find ourselves murmuring and complaining let’s remember the words of our departed fellow pilgrim, Norris, and remind ourselves “Life wasn’t made to be easy.”
“In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.