Lessons From Suffering
ore than a hundred years ago, a lonely, poor boy from Germany came to the United States. His first job was for four dollars a week as a helper in a tiny store in Ohio. Since the owner allowed him to sleep at night in a big packing case in the store without paying any rent, he was able to save one dollar a week.
His next job at a bank paid him eight dollars a week. Here he slept in a loft over the bank office and continued to save all he could.
One day he saw some musical instruments for sale that reminded him how he and his friend back in Germany used to make such instruments. So he sent his life's savings of $700 to his friends in Germany and had them ship a supply of their instruments. The first shipment sold very quickly. He sent for more and was on his way to becoming a successful businessman.
The business this boy started eventually manufactured such musical instruments as pianos, organs, music boxes, and player pianos. It became a multimillion dollar business. The boy's name? Rudolph Wurlitzer.
Chances are, had this boy not started out lonely and penniless, he wouldn't have achieved what he did. His difficult circumstances generated the motivation that made him successful.
Life's like that. Difficult times, economic hardships, business setbacks, sicknesses, sorrows, heartbreaks, and crises come to all of us at some time. When they do, we often feel like we've struck out and failed. However, the only real failure in life is not to get up one more time than we've been knocked down.
The Chinese have two characters
for the word 'crisis'. One means
danger; the other, opportunity.
The Chinese have two characters for the word "crisis". One means danger; the other, opportunity. How right they are! In every crisis there is a danger of being defeated or the opportunity for growth.
The question is: How can we turn crises and suffering into opportunities?
First, we need to realize that we have a choice. Our difficulties can make us bitter or better. They can become a stumbling block or a stepping stone. They can make us resentful or we can see in them an opportunity to be creative. The choice, however, is ours.
In ancient times people used an instrument called a tribulum. It was used to beat grain in order to divide the chaff from the wheat. It's the word from which we get our word "tribulation." In the development of human character it's tribulation that divides "the chaff from the wheat."
In the Bible it says, "We also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."1
Second, we need to accept and master our problems—not run from them.
Most of us remember the story of Daniel being thrown into the lions' den because of his religious convictions. Imagine what might have happened had Daniel denied his problem, or if he had rebelled—and justifiably so—against being thrown into the den and then struggled desperately to get out. The lions probably would have torn him to shreds in short order.
Daniel didn't even try to defend himself—against the authorities or the lions. As terrifying as it was, Daniel accepted his situation. I can imagine him thinking, "I'm in this predicament. I can't escape. How can I make the best of it?"
Undoubtedly, it was the acceptance of his situation as well as his faith in God that saved him. Note, though, his faith didn't save him from the lion's den. It saved him in it! That's the stuff of growth and maturity.
Continued on Page Two