It’s past 2 in the morning. Still and silent the British way. And solitary as Friar Lawrence’s cell, no doubt. With the rest of the household safely and warmly tucked-in in bed, possibly dreaming sweetly but definitely snoring away, I remain glued to the computer, working my brain out on quadratic equations. I’d spent hours, days, weeks and months on numbers, ratio, percentages, fractions, probability, statistics, geometry, trigonometry, and other aspects of Mathematics. But recently, algebra: solving equations, algebraic manipulations, formulae, inequalities, simultaneous equations… and now, quadratic equations. It’s been well over three decades since I last teased my brain on this and even then, had tossed it away as a time-wasting distraction – I was going to study English or French at Uni, so why give myself needless headache toiling at 4x squared – 81 = 0? I’d rather talk about Juliet’s undying love for Romeo!
Well, here I am finding myself electing to study Maths as an additional subject specialism after teaching English for more than two-dozen years. And here I am, having worked through the easier topics, stuck on an aspect of algebra in the dead of the night, comforting myself with a cup of cappuccino. It doesn’t take too long to come to terms with my situation; I can’t figure out how to solve quadratics. I try a couple of websites but just can’t get it. “OK, ok, no bother, do something else, man, and come back to it later.” This trick worked for other areas in the past, but not for this stubborn and formidable four-horned goat called quadratics. Returning to it after a few days still fails to refresh my middle-aged, but I must say, more mature brain. Anyway, I haven’t used the ‘Dial a Friend’ option yet. So, getting on my phone, I call my colleague and friend who’s been a practising mathematician and physicist for as many years as I’ve been playing with words in English. I share my dilemma with him and he bursts into a peal of non-simultaneous, non-equating but seemingly quadratic laughter. He offers, “I’ve got so much Maths in me I’m looking for where to pour it into!” We fix a time for tuition and he sorts me out roundly. It’s not been a day’s journey but with professorial guidance and tutee perseverance, I’ve been navigating my way through the Quadratic Isles.
In life, we occasionally come across challenging tasks and situations which we can’t figure out how to fix. It’s perfectly healthy and wise to know when and where to get help and to go for it.
Our trust in God is best tested in times of crisis, when we are at our wit’s end. Most of us usually rely on our brains and brawn for everyday activities without needing help. It’s normal to wake up, get up, brush our teeth, have a wash, step into our clothes, and so on effortlessly. Even with relatively more difficult tasks like cooking, cleaning, studying, working, and doing business, we often trust in our natural strengths, skills and capabilities. We rarely consider asking for special assistance and we probably don’t need it. We wish life can be so self-contained, self-reliant, and self-sufficient. Contrarily, God in His infinite wisdom has not designed our journey through life to be so smooth. He allows the ups and downs, the mountains and valleys, the roller-coasters and other bumpy rides, and even the shadow of death to both humble and strengthen us as we look up to Him for grace and rescue. This grace, when gained, focuses us on the Everlasting God, who remains our Solid Rock through all life’s storms, our Eternal Hope, and the Rescue for our never-dying souls in eternity. He is our Refuge and Strength, an ever-ready Help in times of trouble. Yes, He is the Solution to life’s perplexing, sometimes formidable, four-horned equations.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
6 The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
7 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel[b] is our fortress.
8 Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
11 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
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