Authored by Tina Kapp
I finally got around to watching “The Pursuit of Happyness,”1 a movie starring Will Smith and his son Jaden. I knew it was some sort of feel-good movie and that it had been based on a true story. Something about a guy hitting rough times and sleeping in the bathroom of a train station while pretending with his son that it was a cave with dinosaurs outside—which probably explains why I hadn’t seen it yet. But I found that there was a lot more to the movie than that.
The protagonist, Chris Gardner, was smart. Very smart. He’d been top of his class in school and, due to his high comprehension of math, he actually completed a Rubik’s cube puzzle in the duration of a cab ride. He made some unfortunate business decisions, however. Such as choosing to be a salesman for an expensive piece of hospital equipment that was going out of “style,” making it extremely difficult to sell. He had invested a lot of money into purchasing it as stock.
We often read about get-rich-quick schemes that worked and see movies like The Social Network or shows like American Idol and may wonder, “If I could just get the right idea or opportunity at the right time, maybe I too could be on my way to easy street.”
It’s true some people get it right the first time, but that’s the exception, not the rule. Most successful businessmen and women had to first try and fail at quite a number of things to find their success.
Back to the story. Chris Gardner then asked a stock broker what it took to become a stock broker and learned that he could fill out a form and apply for an internship.
An internship is where you work closely with professionals and learn on the job, but you usually don’t get paid. After the allotted time (in this case, six months), they would give the 20 interns an exam on all they had been taught. But only one of them would be hired to be a stock broker with the company.
The competition was tough, and the story would have been remarkable just based on this guy’s persistence to get in the program, never having completed his higher education. He chases CEOs and directors down and uses his people-handling skills to help them notice his application. His car gets impounded due to unpaid parking tickets, so he runs to his meetings. I don’t know how many of us would have the guts or the drive to do that!
Of course, what makes this story even more remarkable is that he and his five-year-old son end up being kicked out of their house. They slept in homeless shelters. He would drop his kid off at a daycare each morning, while he kept trying to sell the hospital equipment so they’d have money for food. Then he’d study like crazy through the night for his final exam. All the while, he’d show up at work every day looking presentable and cheerful!
Makes studying for your school exams sound like a piece of cake, doesn’t it?
Sometimes we forget what amazing things humans are capable of surviving and overcoming, and reading or watching stories like this helps us put our daily trials back into perspective. Our circumstances might not be perfect—we might have to struggle to get everything done—but if people like that can make it under such rough and trying circumstances, so can we.
I’ve kept a blog for a few years now. There’s a nifty little device that I’ve linked to my blog. It shows me where visitors to my blog are from, and also what they were searching for, or linking from, that led them to that particular post. There’s one search that stands out far above the rest—with three or four Google searches a day from all over the world leading to a post I wrote on the subject. What is the subject? Quotes on not giving up!
I often wonder what these people are going through that made them look for these words of encouragement. Sure, some of them could have been writing a school paper on the subject, but more often than not, they (or others close to them) are probably facing something where they’re tempted to give up. Just the fact that they’re looking for something to give them that boost to hang on a little longer makes me think they’re going to get through it and make it out all right.
Here are some quotes on the subject of having hope and overcoming life’s obstacles, all from the same author:
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”
“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”
Now this lady knew what she was talking about. She had a lot of successes to her name: she was a world-famous speaker and author, she traveled to over 40 countries, and she was the first person to obtain a Bachelor Arts degree while being blind and deaf. To get an idea of what that’s like, close your eyes and plug your ears, and imagine going about your daily life like that!
Helen Keller was one tough cookie.
If anyone felt they had a legitimate reason to give up, it would have been her! But she didn’t see it that way. She saw challenges as a means of making people better, and she chose to focus on the good things in her life. She enjoyed beating the odds.
It wasn’t easy for her. It took an incredible lady named Anne Sullivan, who also overcame huge odds to teach Helen to communicate when she was a child. Can you even imagine teaching someone anything without them being able to see or hear you? It took a lot of patience, an iron will, and a huge amount of determination. And she succeeded.
If there was ever a Bible character who didn’t listen to “it can’t be done,” it was Gideon. It was tough on him when an angel appeared and called him a “mighty warrior.” Gideon complained that the Lord had abandoned the Israelites, because the Midianites were attacking them, and were winning.2
The Lord replied, “I didn’t abandon you. Look, I’m sending you to fight them!”3
Gideon thought that the Lord hadn’t done His research, so reminded Him that his clan was the weakest in the city, and he was the weakest of his family. The Lord, patient as always, reminded him that they would be fighting together, and that’s how he would strike down all the Midianites.4
Gideon then said that he needed proof that the Lord was really with him, and so God did some cool things, such as having the angel consume with fire the lunch Gideon brought him, and show off with some fleece and water.5
When Gideon’s faith was renewed, God had him call together an army. He got 32,000 men to sign up to fight the Midianites, but God told him that the army he gathered was too strong. That’s not usually what you worry about when fighting a battle, but I think God wanted to prove that it was Him performing a miracle, and that the victory wasn’t going to come by brute force. He designed a series of tests for Gideon to put his men through and by the time he was done, only 300 men were left!6
I think most of us would have given up by then. Not this guy. He was finally determined to do whatever God asked. This was good, because God let him in on a crazy idea to hide some torches in jars and bring along a bunch of trumpets. They were to surround the enemy’s camp, wait for a signal from Gideon, then smash the jars, hold up the torches, and blow the trumpets.7
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen enough war movies to know that’s not how it usually works. But, hey, God’s God for a reason! This freaked out the Midianites and their cohorts so much that they ended up fighting and killing each other.8 As God promised, the Israelites were saved, all because Gideon decided to be that man that didn’t look at the impossibilities.
Michelangelo was ordered to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Pope Julius II. He refused because he was a sculptor, not a painter, and he didn’t want his possible failure on permanent display. The Pope was a pretty persistent guy and didn’t accept his refusal, so Michelangelo finally buckled down and learned what he needed in order to do what the pope requested. This included learning how to paint on a curved surface so that the painting would look proportionate when viewed from the ground, which is insanely difficult. But he didn’t give up and ended up creating one of the world’s greatest works of art.
There are few who realize what possibilities are locked up within them until some necessity compels them to attempt something they have always considered impossible. It is the people who don’t give up, who don’t accept others telling them “it can’t be done,” who go on to accomplish great things.
If you have a dream or a passion you know is worth fighting for, with God’s help you can do anything if you don’t give up. Even if, like Gideon, your plan seems crazy, or like Chris Gardner, you face insane challenges, just start with baby steps, and then take it one day at a time.
Chris Gardner said something I love: “Baby steps count, as long as you are going forward. You add them all up, and one day you look back and you’ll be surprised at where you might get to.”
If you persevere, I wonder who’ll star in the movie of your life one day? Who knows? It could happen.
1 In Pursuit of Happyness
2 Judges 6:11–13
3 Judges 6:14, rephrased
4 Judges 6:13–16
5 Judges 6:17–22; 36–40
6 Judges 7:2–8
7 Judges 7:15–20
8 Judges 7:21–22
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International