In the early days of space exploration, walking on the moon wasn’t the only problem facing Soviet cosmonauts; they also had difficulty walking on Earth after they returned from prolonged flights. The lack of gravity in orbit caused very serious and life-threatening problems when they returned home.
But they eventually found a way to make re-entry easier…by making space flight harder.
When Soviet crew members of Soyuz-T7 returned to Earth in 1982 after spending 211 days in orbit, they suffered from spells of dizziness, accelerated pulse rates, and even heart palpitations. Their physical condition was so bad that they couldn’t even walk for a week! A full month later, they were still undergoing treatment for atrophied muscles and weakened hearts.
The problem was due to the lack of gravity in space. Without gravity for prolonged periods of time, the human body begins to deteriorate because there isn’t any resistance forcing the muscles to work, grow, and stay healthy. The Soviets’ problem was an ironic one: it seemed the most dangerous part of going to outer space was coming home!
Their solution was the humble “penguin suit.”
These specially designed uniforms were essentially exercise suits that were infused with tight elastic bands and pulleys that created artificial force for the cosmonauts to work against. Every move the cosmonauts made – from working on the shuttle’s controls to picking up a bottle of water – was made more difficult by the penguin suits. Scientists hoped this added resistance would keep the cosmonauts’ muscles strong.
The suits worked! On December 29, 1987, Yuri V. Romanenko returned to his home planet after a grueling 326 days in orbit. His record-breaking voyage also broke the cycle of weakened cosmonauts…all because of the added resistance.
These days, many Christians could use “penguin suits.” So many of us want to have life easy; we don’t want our faith to entail hard work. If we’re honest, we’d prefer that our faith not cause resistance in our lives. But life that’s easy always leads to faith that’s queasy.
In God’s infinite wisdom, He gives us the opportunity to use our struggles as a way to stay strong and even grow. That’s why James opens his epistle with these words:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)