Jesus said “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”. John 8 v 12-20
Last December, 2019, when approaching my first Christmas in Newbattle Parish, I preached at Newtongrange about “the light of life” during the season of advent. In that month that has the shortest day of the year and the longest night, we reflected on how important it is for us to nurture and spread light in our days and in our world. In May, when the days are getting very much longer and indeed the longest day and shortest night are still to come, this might be harder to imagine. However, no matter what season of the year we are in, I believe everyone can relate to the idea of spiritual darkness, to dark days and spells in our life, where circumstances, such as the ones we are facing just now, bring moments and even days of darkness and despair.
So I thought I would share with you today the inspirational story I shared that day during advent to encourage us all to keep going.
Florence May Chadwick was an American swimmer who was the first woman ever to cross the English Channel twice both ways. On the fourth of July 1952, Florence aged thirty four years, had set her goal at being the first woman to swim the twenty six miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline. As she began this historical journey and had spent about fifteen hours swimming, a thick, heavy fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the support boats, that she did not think she could make it. Her mother and her trainer continued to encourage her to continue, but all she could see was the fog. They urged her not to give up. But she did. She had never given until on anything until that day.
Two months later, Florence got back in the water to attempt her challenge once more. This time was different. She swam from Catalina Island to the shore of California in a straight path for twenty six miles. The same thick fog set in, but Florence made it because she said that while she swam, she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her mind. Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, eclipsing the men’s record by two hours! She didn’t lose sight of the shore because she focused on that image of the coast in her mind, and in this way, she reached her goal.
Helen Keller wrote: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
You should never give up on your goals.
How many blessings first appear as troubles? How many opportunities come in the form of problems? If you give up when trouble first arrives, you will miss out on the blessings in disguise.
Never give up. Nothing can bring you down unless you let it. Refuse to cooperate with your problems. Somewhere, there is a way to turn anything to your advantage. Know it is there, like the shore, find it, do it, keep going.
No matter what happens in the outside world, your mind and spirit are always free for you to use as you wish. They are yours. Use them to your benefit. Use them to move past the challenges. Use them to turn negative situations into positive energy.
Believe that you are incredibly effective. You can get the results you desire, no matter what obstacles come your way. Giving up is not an option. You have every reason to keep going. See it through to the end, and you will like the way it turns out. Florence Chadwick did just that and she became a world record holder and a inspirational heroine.
There’s a part of the story I didn’t mention before that is also important to bring in now. In 1952, when young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She had already in the past been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was almost there and that she could make it. All of these things were in her favour but physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It was not until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away.
At a news conference the next day she said, “All I could see was the fog.…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”
Can you relate to those words? We live our lives in a fog of trouble, worry, doubt, depression, health problems, unemployment, financial uncertainty, strained relationships…and loss of loved ones. Of course, we have times of joy and celebration too but often our focus from the news each day is that we live in a world of struggle, suffering, and death. All these things create a fog which makes it difficult to see in front of us. We end up focusing on the fog because we cannot see the shore. Sometimes we feel like giving up because we do not have the strength to stay afloat any longer.
This is where the people of God throughout the ages had a powerful source of strength and perspective. Faith was their north star by which they could navigate their lives. It was their great reference point that helped them leave what was behind them to look towards what was ahead. Consider Florence Chadwick’s words today : “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” You too can make if you don’t give up.