"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."1
Some years ago I prayed and asked God to give me something special that would equip me to better serve him. Did God answer my prayer? I didn't think so for a long time. I got the opposite of what I had in mind when I prayed this prayer, and it turned out to be a nightmare for a long time. But I have to admit that if there is any depth in the ministry the Lord has entrusted to me today, so much of it was learned during those nightmarish years. Now I see clearly that God did answer my prayer and though the experience was, at times, incredibly painful, I do believe I am a much better man as a result.
The words of the following old poem may be simple but, for me, are quite profound:
For every hill I had to climb,
For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat,
My heart sings but a grateful songó
Those were the things that made me strong.
For all the heartaches and the tears,
For all the anguish and the pain,
For gloomy days and fruitless years
And for the hopes that lived in vain;
I do give thanks, for now I know,
These were the things that helped me grow.
'Tis not the softer things of life
Which stimulate our will to strive,
But bleak adversity and strife
Do most to keep our will alive.
Over rose-strewn paths the weaklings creep,
But brave hearts dare to climb the steep.2
As I've said before, God wants to use our trials and struggles to make us better. Satan wants to use them to make us doubt and become bitter. To become better or bitter is each person's choice.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, as I look back I can see how you have used the difficult times in my life to help me stretch and grow, to help me to become more understanding of and sensitive to others, and to better equip me to serve You. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer of long ago. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. James 1:2-4 (NIV).
2. Author Unknown