I watched my friend, Patricia, struggle through more than twenty years of a difficult marriage. Her husband left three times during the two decades—once before their three children were born, and twice after. They lived through nineteen different homes in multiple cities, revolving jobs, rumored affairs, cycles of financial plenty followed by financial deficiency. Eventually, after twenty-three years, Rodney packed his bags for the last time and left. The divorce was final the following year. That long chapter was over.
I don’t like to struggle, and I don’t like to see my friends struggle. I like for life to be easy. I want all my friends to love me all the time, I want my husband to agree with my every decision, I want my bosses to think every idea is brilliant, and I want God to answer my every prayer with a check mark.
One night Jesus was praying on a mountain while His disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. He looked down and saw that the disciples were straining with the oars, struggling with the wind, and bailing water over the edge. But He wasn’t worried.
Jesus calmly walked on the water, got in the boat, and commanded the winds and the waves to settle down. And they obeyed. And the disciples were amazed.
Jesus could have simply spoken to the wind and waves from the mountaintop. After all, He was already talking with His Father. But He didn’t. He allowed the disciples to struggle. More important than relieving their straining was strengthening their faith. They needed to know who He was, not just what He did. If He had stopped the struggle while they were in the middle of it, they might have never known that He was the One who controls it all. A different perspective. A different point of view.
James wrote: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4 NIV). I wonder what life would be like if I truly did consider trials pure joy?
One day I asked Patricia if she regretted marrying her ex-husband, and her answer was stunningly beautiful. “If I had not married him, I would not have the strong faith that I have today. If life had been easy, I think I would have a flabby faith that could maybe quote Scripture but not necessarily believe it. I would have grown spiritually sloppy rather than spiritually strong.
“Because I had to depend on God to provide for me and my children, especially emotionally, I know God as my Provider. Because I had to depend on God’s love for me when I didn’t get it from my husband, I know the depths of His love for me. Because I had to stand on God’s Word when the world around me was falling apart, I know the Rock on which my feet are planted. Had I not gone through those difficult years, I would not have the trust in God that I have today. He gives me life. He is my life.”
We’ve all been hurt by life and struggled in some form or fashion; no one is immune to suffering. But rather than view the pain as our burden to bear, what if we considered it a gift for growing? Healing on the other side of heartbreak is not simply returning to how we were before but becoming better than we would have been without it—someone stronger, someone wiser, someone gentler. And that’s something we all want.
Father, thank You for the struggles that have made me stronger. I know there are so many lessons I would have never learned in comfort and ease. Help me to look for the lessons in the hardships of life and grow in the grace You give. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
What is one struggle you’ve experienced that has made you stronger?
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We’ve all got parts of our stories that we’d like to tear out or mark out of the narrative. I’ve got them. You’ve got them. But what if your worst chapters could become your greatest victories? What if the worst parts could become the most powerful tools that God uses in the life of others? I know that they can. Check out my book, When You Don’t Like Your Story, and let’s learn how together!
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