I’m thankful for the effect hard times have on me. But often it takes awhile for me to be thankful. I’m not one of those people who instantly says thanks when difficulty comes. I think there are some who think that is true, but it isn’t. However, with age, I have learned that there are many gifts that come with hard times.
I didn’t just learn them after the hard things that came this year. It has definitely been a cumulative learning experience. Here are some things I have learned from hard times.
HARD TIMES ARE DIFFICULT AND OFTEN PAINFUL
–They are difficult and often very painful. I know. this seems like it shouldn’t need to be said. But I don’t want to be a Pollyanna. Just because what I am going through is happening for my good, it doesn’t take away the pain of it. The miscarriage, the stillbirth of a child, the sudden death of a father, the sudden illness of a spouse.. Talk about pain! Ouch! Those are the sudden, unexpected events. They often send us reeling for months or years as we recover from the shock and grief of the loss.
Then there are the chronic ones. Chronic disease, chronic pain, chronic brokenness in relationships, disappointments over years of ministry…and on and on it goes. I didn’t always deal with the grief of some of those situations. I often tried the stoic route. It doesn’t help. Being a stoic is not a sign that you have faith. It’s just a sign that you internalize your grief. That is not dealing with it.
Learning how to acknowledge the truth of the sadness and brokenness helps. We live in a broken world. We haven’t gotten to heaven yet. That is where all things will be new. Meanwhile, we can be free to grieve the sadness. How long we grieve depends on the person. Some will grieve longer than others. It doesn’t say anything about our spirituality, but probably more about our personality. Some will weep outwardly more than others. Grieve in the way you need to for the amount of time you need to. Definitely, don’t worry about what others think. To a large degree, it is none of their business how you grieve as long as you are within the broad range of appropriate morally.
HARD TIMES DISRUPT MY LIFE IN WAYS I DON’T ANTICIPATE
–They disrupt my life in ways I often don’t anticipate. Grief, pain, weakness, loss of control all throw off the balance of life as usual. There are good things about that. It makes me stop to see what I have to do to make my life work again. Life doesn’t work like it once did. It is unlikely that it ever will. Understanding that GOD plans what needs to be disrupted in my life and in what order can be helpful.
I have rarely come through these times without being humbled. It often opens my heart to being sensitive to people around me that I didn’t notice before or willing to take steps toward others I wouldn’t have before.
Think about places that benefit from disruption. One of those places is hard ground. When it is disrupted by a hoe that breaks it up, the ground gets softened a prepared to start a garden. Manure and other additives are often added to the soil as well to make the soil more fertile. Then, the vegetables can grow and provide food. Or flowers can grow and provide beauty for your yard. Either way, the soil is being prepared for healthy growth. Beauty comes out of it.
AS A CHILD OF GOD, HARD TIMES TURN ME TO JESUS
–As a child of GOD, hard times turn me to Jesus…eventually. Sometimes, I must admit my first place to turn hasn’t always been to Jesus. I’m being honest. Sometimes, my first reaction has been anger, major, big time anger. Sometimes, it was even directed at GOD! Because I knew He was the one person who could have prevented what happened. So I have to admit, turning to Jesus hasn’t always been my first response. But it usually doesn’t take very long before that is where I have to go. Remember the response of the disciples?
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,
and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:66-69 ESV
When you get down to it, this is a response of faith. There are many times when we struggle, but in the end, we understand that we have no place else to go but to Jesus. He is the one with the words of Life. Who else can we trust?
Recently, a friend reminded me of how the many hard situations in our lives that seem like poop in the way they affect us or in the way they make us feel. But poop turns into the compost that makes the soil of our faith grow. I know it is a crass illustration, but it is real and true. Think about it!Hard times are difficult and painful. They are disruptive as well. They turn the soil of our hearts in ways that break up hard ground. In the end, they also turn us to Jesus in new ways. For these reasons and more, they are a gift. Click To Tweet
What have you discovered about how GOD uses hard times and suffering in your life?
How have these disruptions of your life helped you?
How have they humbled you?
How have they taught you more about Jesus?
How have they drawn you closer to Jesus?