This is the first blog in a series based, on parallels between the lives of Helen Keller and the apostle Paul. I will also talk about what I have learned from the lives of these two figures and their perseverance despite serve hardships. It is my hope that we all can learn a thing or two from this series.
I feel I have much in common with both Helen and Paul. All three of us have lived in our own prison. Paul was literally in prison but wrote some of his most famous letters of the New Testament.
Helen was in a prison of sorts because of the fact that she was both deaf and blind. In 1881, when she had an illness that left her deaf and blind, the deaf were considered by most to be dumb and unteachable. Despite this, she was able to complete her bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe College in 1904. She then went on to be a writer and lecturer, advocate for the deaf and a political activist. She even helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union.
Both Helen Keller and Paul were able to find joy in the midst of hardships and continued to give to others.
We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food….We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. – 2 Corinthians 6:5, 8-10 (NLT)
According to those who attended, Helen Keller spoke of the joy that life gave her. She was thankful for the faculties and abilities that she did possess and stated that the most productive pleasures she had were curiosity and imagination. Keller also spoke of the joy of service and the happiness that came from doing things for others. – a reprinted column, describing a 1916 lecture given by Helen Keller, in the Dunn County News on January 20, 2016
I also live in a prison. My prison is my body. I can’t move or even breath on my own. I rely on someone else to do everything for me. I know all too well how easy it can be to fall into self-pity, but I choose not to.
Do I have my moments or even days of frustration to the point of wanting to give up? I sure do. I think if we’re honest we all do. I know Helen Keller did, based on the autobiography of her first 20 years or so of life called This Is My Story. But she didn’t let the frustration stop her.
The Bible doesn’t say if Paul had these moments but he was human so probably did. I like reading his letters because some of them can be quite sarcastic. Based on that I would assume he had some days where he was at the end of his rope. Paul didn’t let anything stop him.
Unfortunately, there have been times I have let adversity stop me and change my attitude for the worse. This all changed when I learned to have a relationship with Jesus. I have learned to see adversities and struggles as growth opportunities. I have learned to take the advice of the brother of Jesus, James.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4
I hope people can find some hope in this. I know some of us are going through some very hard times. If not, you either have or will. Some days it can be so hard to carry on for some of us. I want to encourage you to keep pulling into God. The rest of us can give those struggling our support and prayer.