Doing the twist

The twists and turns of life can be painful and mysterious, especially when we don’t see them coming. I didn’t see a major “twist” coming, and either did a 47-year-old pastor who went from being an ultra-marathoner to being unable to walk, talk or swallow. But God knows

John Stumbo running a marathon before he became ill.

what’s coming, and those who know Him can be assured that God is with them and that God is good —always.  

My twist

It was June, 2004, and my husband and I had just returned from Russia with two newly adopted children, ages 10 and 11, feeling as if we had accomplished what God had asked us to do. We didn’t know that the most difficult year of our lives would soon begin.

That June, I was feeling pretty good about myself as I turned 43. Hadn’t I stepped out in faith with my husband and obeyed God’s call to adopt these children? Hadn’t I given up my family of four as I knew it by submitting to the Lord and flown to the ends of the earth (It seemed like it to me!) to do God’s will in my life?

That’s why my prayer time on that day in June seemed so strange. I can clearly see myself on my knees in my bedroom, reading my Bible and praying. I sensed that God was telling me that He needed to do some inner work on me. I started to object and question God. “What’s wrong with me, Lord?” I asked him. “Haven’t I been doing what you wanted me to do?”  I remember a sense of my attitude and pride. I was saying to God, “Hey, I’m fine. I’m not that bad!”

Then God led me to Isaiah 29:16:  “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me?” Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing?”

That pretty much put me in my place. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, I knew God was telling me that he was the potter, and I was clay. He was saying that he needed to remake the pot, even though I thought I’d been worked over on the potter’s wheel pretty well during the long adoption process.

God was about to take me through experiences with my new children that would drive me to question everything – even God’s existence. Later, I would be able to say that this “twist” helped me become more aware of the depth of my sinful nature and my constant, daily need for a holy God. I would be able to say that my gratefulness for God’s grace grew deeper, that God taught me to trust Him even more and helped my faith grow stronger. I would be able to say that I understood in a new way how deep God’s love is for me, and that it was all worth it.

But on that day in June, I knew nothing. I didn’t think I needed to be re-formed on the potter’s wheel, but God knew better.

John Stumbo’s twist

I was reminded of that particular prayer time last week when I heard Pastor John Stumbo speak. A mysterious illness destroyed this ultra-marathoner’s muscles, leaving him in a wheelchair and unable to swallow and eat food for 18 months. One of his friends said it was as though he’d been “hit by a semi-truck,” which Stumbo thought was accurate, but he wanted a more helpful metaphor. So Stumbo turned to the One who knew all: he asked God for His word picture of what was happening in his life. Why was he barely able to talk, living on a feeding tube and completely dependent on others to care for him? After a period of time, God showed him.

“…I could “see” hands shaping a pot on a wheel. Wet clay was being carefully molded as it spun. Damp hands held it firmly and skillfully. The pot in the hands already stood a couple feet high. I liked the pot. It had no special elegance to it, but it looked strong, sturdy, functional…nearly complete,” writes Stumbo in his book, “An Honest Look at a Mysterious Journey.”

“Suddenly, as the wheel and pot continued to spin, the hands pressed firmly down on the clay. In almost an instant, the well-established pot was now reduced to a few inches tall with the thumbs of the hands almost touching the base.

“Mysteriously—without comment or explanation of any kind—the Craftsman had decided to start over; not from scratch, not discarding the clay altogether, but from an unglamorous lump, He was beginning anew.

“Over the weeks I would ponder, The first pot looked perfectly fine to me. Why did He have to reduce it down?

“Without question, I knew I was the clay and God the Master Potter. The message was clear, personal, and perspective-bringing.

“No, I hadn’t been beaten nor run over. I was in good hands…artistic hands. The base was still spinning, the work was continuing. I was being re-formed. The Creator Himself was re-shaping my life.”

If you are wrestling with questions of faith in the midst of life’s unpredictable events, reading Stumbo’s book might give you a new perspective. “This is one of the most powerful stories that I have ever heard,” writes noted author and speaker Ravi Zacharias “It will change the way you face life’s twists and turns.” 

“An Honest Look at a Mysterious Journey” by John and Joanna Stumbo is available at,  or at

“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”  Jeremiah 18:6








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