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by Bob Russell, ©2020

(Jul. 20, 2020) — Faith is important in every aspect of our lives and in every day of our lives.  The Holy Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Having faith is easy when we are on top of the world, when everything in life is great, but it is harder to have when things aren’t going well, when life presents its most difficult challenges.  Right now, at 5 years, 11 months into a stroke and 4 years, 2 months after my dream of total restoration from the crippling effects, I am nowhere near the mountaintop.  I am trudging through a swamp, waist-deep in nasty water filled with alligators and poisonous snakes, with no high ground, or even dry ground, in sight.  I have been here since suffering a severe stroke on August 19, 2014.  God gave me a glimmer of hope in May 2016 when He sent me a dream that I would wake up one morning totally healed, free of the effects of the stroke.  My faith is still strong although I experience times of discouragement.  I believe that satan hit me with this to try to drive me away from God but it backfired, moving me closer instead.  My faith has actually grown as I pray more and read the Bible more now than at any time in my long life.

One day God is going to bring the dream to pass, but until then I live each day on faith, believing that the dream WAS from God and that in His perfect timing I will be restored. Until then I will continue to work my way through the swamp that is my life right now.  I have heard people look back on hard times and say it wasn’t that bad.  I am not going to say that because the last nearly 6 years (5 years, 11 months) have been the toughest time of my life and I hope I never have another experience like it again.  I know that I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, with the faith that this, too, shall pass and God will bring me to the mountaintop again.  In the meantime I keep my eyes on Jesus and believe He will keep the alligators and snakes at bay until I get to where I am going.  As I trudge through this swamp I do so with faith and expectation and do all I can to bring honor and glory to the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things in them.  I continually profess my faith, even to people who laugh at and/or mock me, because I know that Jesus is working in me and through me, and professing Him to others is part of what I need to do.

Right now I am surrounded by swamp water, alligators, and poisonous snakes but I know Jesus is with me, keeping the dangers of the swamp out of my path, and I stay focused on Him.  It isn’t easy walking through it as footing is precarious and progress is slow but I keep hold of His hand and take it one step at a time, in faith.  The Bible also says, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there and it will move” (Matthew 17:20).  Those are the words of Jesus Christ.  My mountain hasn’t moved yet but it will move.  In talking to a friend, a nurse at the Claremore Veterans Center where I volunteered for five years until the coronavirus shut all volunteering down, she said the mountain may move all at once or it might move a little at a time, but it will move.  It seems as if  my mountain is the size of Mt. Everest and moving a teaspoonful at a time but it will be gone eventually, and hopefully very soon. Every night I pray that the next morning will be the one in the dream.  When it isn’t I thank God for giving me another day knowing that it brings me one day closer to THE day of the dream.

I daily give praise and thanks to God for the progress that has been given so far and for that which is still to come.  Every day is a struggle, but I know that as long as I keep my eyes and my mind on Jesus and continue to move forward as best I can, He will lead me through and fend off the alligators and snakes for me.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Phil 4:13).  If you are in a valley or swamp, remember that with Jesus as your guide you can get through it and will once again be on the mountaintop.  If you are on the mountaintop remember who set you there and praise and thank Him every day that you are where you are.  I give Him praise and thanks every day because I know that without Him I would be much worse off than I am and that I will one day see the mountaintop again.  The swamp could be deeper and the alligators and snakes more numerous and more menacing, and I don’t have to navigate it alone, don’t have to fend for myself if I trust God.  I turned 70 in January and know that getting back to the excellent physical condition I was in the day of the stroke is unlikely but that I will have the ability to get as close as my advanced age will allow.  There will be no reason for me to not get back to daily workout sessions once the crippling effects of the stroke have been removed.

I submit this in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, the Father, Son Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, in faith, with the responsibility given to me by Almighty God to honor His work and not let it die from neglect.

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