Dear Friends,

We've just begun our new series, "The Happiness Project." One of the subjects that invariably comes up is "How can I be happy if my circumstances are difficult or miserable?" Everyone has to find his/her own answer to this question, but I have been considering a story I came across that speaks a bit to this issue.

Philip Yancey is a prominent Christian writer, and in one of his books he tells about a trip he made to India, where he visited Dr. Paul Brand. Dr. Brand is gone now, but he was a missionary medical doctor who specialized in orthopedic surgery and had a tremendous impact on the lives of many people.

While Yancey was there, he met a man named Sadan, who had leprosy. He told wrenching stories of rejection because of his leprosy -- the classmates who made fun of him at school, the driver who threw him off the bus, the many employers who refused to hire him despite his training and talent, and the hospital that turned him away.

Alone and with nowhere to go, he came to this clinic run by Dr. Brand. He could still remember when Dr. Brand took his infected, bleeding feet into his hands. He had been to so many doctors who examined him from a distance, who were terrified of leprosy, but Dr. Brand and his wife were the first medical workers who dared to touch him. He had nearly forgotten what human touch felt like. And they let him stay in their house that night.

There were many difficult medical procedures, but Sadan was eventually able to have a family and a fulfilling job helping to care for others with leprosy. Hs life, Yancey wrote, has been a catalog of human suffering. And the stigma continued right up to the time he was meeting with Yancey. For example, at one point, he sat in a car alone and watched his daughter's wedding from a distance, afraid his presence would disturb the guests.

But as he sat there talking with Philip Yancey, he said, "Still, I must say that I am now happy that I had this disease." "Happy?" Yancey asked, incredulous. "Happy?" "Yes," he replied. "Apart from leprosy, I would have been a normal man with a normal family, chasing wealth and things and a higher position in society. I would never have known such wonderful people as Dr. Brand and his wife, and I would never have known the God who lives in them."

Something perhaps for us to consider as we go through the not infrequent difficulties and struggles in our own lives.

Grace (and Happiness) and Hope to you,

Pastor Duane