And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24,25).

The ghost chile is the hottest chile on the planet, with a score of about a million on the Scoville Scale. (The jalapeno is around 8000). Yet on the Travel Channel program “Man v. Food,” host Adam Richmond once ate a burger dressed with a salsa containing four ghost chiles, plus habanero, jalapeno, and one other sort I don’t recall. After the first bite, Richmond was sweating and in pain. He couldn’t eat anything else for fifteen minutes. Yet he finally finished the hellish creation.

How? Partly because he somehow has the mental discipline (or foolish determination) to push past the pain. (Maybe banging on the table also helped.) But at least as important as any of that was the chanting of the crowd and the individual pep talks from customers. The support of those gathered in the San Antonio restaurant to watch him take on the “Four Horsemen” burger enabled him to do the impossible by the deadline.

I don’t consider consuming a fiery burger to be much of a worthy goal. And, though we watch Richmond’s show like we would a train wreck, extreme eating is an odd activity and hardly qualifies as entertainment.

But my point here is the difference made by having friends or just fans to urge us on when we attempt the impossible. When we are in a crisis, any number of factors might get us through: a cool head, training, determination. But over and over, pastoral care experts have noticed that it’s the people who have friends and family to support them that make progress toward recovery from surgery or an addiction or some personal tragedy. Those without a support system tend to spiral downward into despair, depression, and hopelessness.

There are no guarantees, of course. Even with the crowd behind him, Richmond sometimes can’t finish the huge plates or extreme dishes set before him. And despite our friends and family urging us on and being there, we may still succumb to life’s assault. But despite the end, the journey has been made better because we were encouraged along the way. We were not alone.

© 2010 Tom Cheatham