Is Life Like a Game of Chess?

 Life is a board game and time is your opponent. I don’t know about you, but I have never played the game of Chess, nor have I ever had a desire to learn. But when I was young I would watch some friends of the family play the game from time to time. I noticed they played with intense concentration, blocking out all distractions and carefully considering each move. It must be hard to develop the habit of reflecting before each move. Millions of people in the world play this game. Chess was originally invented in India, around the 6th century AD. Its purpose was to help improve the lives of people with mental problems. Over the centuries, people have played the game for pleasure and for the challenge. Chess is a two-player game. The game has a total of 16 pieces for each player to play – the King, Queen, Bishop, Rook, and so on. Each piece has its own power. Every time a player makes a move, either a positive or negative outcome occurs. The pieces keep moving forward and the player must make an intellectual decision as to where he should move next. In Chess or in any game, the object is to win. We play the game of life in a similar fashion. We make decisions every day based on how we want to move forward.   

How do you play this match? Some people navigate their way carefully through the journey of life. They have won or are winning the game, or at least that’s how it looks from the outside. They make their decisions based on the principles they choose. From my personal experience, I’d say the game is not as easy as it seems. Don’t you agree? In our lives, we are connected by many relationships, which we rely on for survival. Whether it’s family, friends, work, home, finances, etc., each of us makes decisions based on what we want from life. 

Since we are all at times driven to have the desires of our flesh, we may find ourselves trying to have our cake and eat it too. Some people make their move on the game board of life by manipulating people or situations to get what they want, instead of basing their decision on moral principles. If you don’t make your move diligently, life may make its own move and “knock off a piece” of your empire. I have been there, and have had to tell myself, “That was disappointing, but so what? It’s a part of life.” We can’t do it with our own strength. We need help, the kind of help that can give us the power to dust ourselves off from a fall and play the game again with better plans. It may take a few times. Sometimes you must move backward to take better steps forward. That’s called life. I must say, I’m glad for those who have learned from their falls. They go forward saying, “The game is on!” I love how beautifully David the prophet says in Psalm 119: 71, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your law.” He recognized that his affliction brought him closer to God. Hopefully we also can learn from our failures and live the life that was intended for us, without the heavy winds of life knocking us down. 

 The next verse emphasizes it. “Fight for the right things, in the right way, and the right motive.” 1 Chronicles 11:10

 There are many kinds of believers and religions in the world. Some believe in God (He exists and created the universe), then there are others that believe God is who He says He is, does what He says he will do, and is clear about what He wants us to do. 

 There are also people who are atheists (they believe in self-knowledge and for them, God does not exist). Each of us looks at life from our own unique perspective and many of us are driven to “win the game” on our own strength. But God has intended for us a different way.

 “Fear not, for I am with you; don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

 You might say, “Those people don’t believe in God, but it seems like they have everything. They certainly look happy.” It looks good, doesn’t it? But are they happy within themselves? Do they have the peace you have? They’re always moving from one thing to another. Nothing can satisfy them for long, because the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. Nothing can quench their thirst for more. They may look rich on the outside, but are penniless in their heart and soul. Do you think they have won the game of life? I don’t think so. None of us will finish victoriously, unless we align ourselves with God through His one and only son, Christ Jesus. Through faith His strength becomes ours, as He reaches out to keep us from falling. “Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light’. ” (Matthew 6: 28-30)  Life is not always about winning. Sometimes it’s about learning and growing. 

 If we pay careful attention to God’s word, we will see that He never promised to move the pieces of the game of life for us, but He has promised that He will be with us and with His help, the obstacles blocking our forward growth will be removed. We must keep the verse below in mind, as this is how God wants us to live our lives. If we do, we will undoubtedly win the game of life in the end.   

  “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Life Beyond the Screen!

We don’t understand God’s sovereignty and we desperately seek for answers so as to understand why God allows bad things happen to good people. Or conversely, why do good things happen to bad people? We have many unanswered questions. Of all the challenges that we face in our daily lives, the most difficult one to understand is the suffering of innocent people. Why does God allow His creation to suffer? With His loving hands, He created and gave purpose and gifts to every living thing. Humans are the only thing in creation given the gift of free will. To choose God (to trust Him and have eternal hope) means we can have a victorious life, and the source of our victory will be our perseverance. To choose to live without him is the path of darkness which ends in death. Everyone has their struggles and we don’t have any idea as to what goes on in someone’s life beyond the public image they portray.

Everyone was shocked and disturbed upon hearing about the death of Robin Williams. Such a gifted man! There are many talented celebrities and we all have one or two favorites. Robin Williams was one of my favorite actor/comedians and I was saddened when he suddenly left this world. In the wake of his death by suicide, his friends and fans tried to fathom how someone who brought so much happiness to the world could be in such a dark place, living a life of despair. As I read about him, the man behind the screen, tears began to flow and my heart broke. He was not only incredibly hilarious, he was also a kindhearted and loving guy who put the happiness of others first. He came from a family with money, and he felt so blessed that he wanted to give something back to the world. But unfortunately, no one knew how deeply he mourned within himself. 

Robin is quoted as saying, ” Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes. Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.”
We don’t know much about his medical condition and what went through his mind in those mournful last moments, but his final action tells us that he had lost all hope. Without hope life loses its meaning. 
Like Robin, a lot of us live a life “on screen” and “off screen” – on the outside we look as if everything is okay and yet, behind the smiles there are dark secrets, silent tears, and heavy storms without hope. Furthermore, some people are entangled in the deep pit of addiction (drugs, food, sex, pornography, etc.) and are in the complete denial, which typical of a person who is addicted. They wear a mask of secrets. They assume that if they stay hidden, the storm will be easier to bear and no one will know what they’re up to, rather than dealing with the shame and embarrassment of the truth. The wind storm and the dark clouds won’t fade away, instead they get heavier and thicker, until they eventually knock them down. 
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Where should they go? Where can they find shelter? Who would want to take them in? Some people may shut the door in their face. Even close friends and family may reject them. They might be in a state of confusion and desperation, not knowing how to cope or how to crawl out of the hole that they dug for themselves. You may try to give them a shoulder to cry on and talk to them countless times, trying to help them see the light. Finally, you realize that you’re not helping them. In fact, you’re enabling them. You would like to tell them, “Stop it! Enough is enough. You’re hurting yourself and everyone around you.” But it is easier said than done. We all face difficulties in our lives. God wants us to face the storm, not ignore it. He never said that it would be easy, but He promises to be with us. If we endure the suffering and let perseverance do its work, we will make it to the other side. 
If we believe through faith that God is with us even as we go through the fire, we can confidently know that we will emerge from it, and not only will we not smell like smoke, we will come out on the other side with buckets of water in our hands (God’s many blessings). How does that sound? It surely gives us hope.
 By embracing hardship, perseverance can bring us to a spacious place. God’s word says:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)

The best place to find hope is in the shelter of God’s loving arms. He loves us so much that He gave us the free gift of choice. He boldly tells us that if we choose the road of destruction, we will eventually find death. If we choose Him, we will find life – a life free from turmoil, free from living in secret, and free from hiding in dark places. He wants us to take off the mask of secrecy and come boldly to the throne of God. 
David said in (Psalm 32:7)”You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” 

Yes, this verse should be our prayer as well. At times, we’re in so much pain that we can’t see through the darkness. How can God possibly hear our prayers? But as soon as we put our hope in God and with trust Him, claiming the victory that is ours, we will witness how His light can peek through the darkest moments to enlighten our hearts and our lives. Walking through the dark valleys requires time and patience. It takes an enormous amount of effort to wait on God. 
I must say, waiting for God may not be easy, but it is not joyless either, because His presence goes with us wherever we go. We will always face temptation and hardship, but when we seek God’s shelter and focus on His promises, waiting for Him becomes the source of our joy rather than a drudgery.