Life is made up of ups and downs. But some still seem surprised when they hit the speed bumps, when the curve ball comes their way, when the bottom drops out.
A study was just released about success and failure in children’s lives. When they are told that problems are to be expected and that failure is a part of the process of growth, they do better.
If that is true of kids, it is also true of adults.
Here are four opportunities that the trials of life afford us.
#1. Experiencing the goodness of God
Some people ask why God allows bad things to happen. Successful people, spiritually speaking, see God’s goodness in the midst of tribulations. Christians see the divine hand guiding toward the goal.
Paul could see it, too.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT).
In bad times we discover our true friends. This is no less true of God.
#2. Learning patience and forming character
The body’s muscles are strengthened by resistance. Our spirit develops, in part, by dealing with the push-and-pull factors of life. They require more of us. They cause us to read deeper into our inner reserves and seek the power of God.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3).
Some people get bitter, others better, when trials come. The difference? The bitter don’t have God, but the better know how, through the will of God, to make trials their tools. They become stronger, more pure, with more peace and joy,?because of these things!
“I need my pain,” said Captain Kirk in one of the “Star Trek” films. Christians need their pain, too, as a part of their character formation.
#3. Letting God’s light shine through
In the midst of a world that complains, insults, murmurs and seeks desperately for a way out of sufferings, Christians shine brightly.
Whether Daniel in the lion’s den, Paul and Silas singing and praying in the deepest dungeon, Peter and John leaving the Sanhedrin and giving thanks that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ, the Lord’s people discover in each trial the grace of God and stand out in the midst of the lost.
We have been called into the light (1 Peter 2:9) to be bearers of that light, so that pagans “will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2:12).
No difference is greater in this world than how people respond to hardship. Disciples take it as their chance to shine for God.
#4. Embracing reality
The more we accept the reality of this life as it is, the more prepared and better equipped we will be to live according to the will of God. The person who seeks a life without difficulties and suffering has yet to understand the objective of human existence.
Our time on earth is not to be spent in a search for comfort and freedom from problems. We seek God’s kingdom and his way of doing things (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus promised us much in this life, and every bit of it “with persecutions” (Mark 10:29-30). And in the world to come, eternal life, he said.
To his son in the faith, Paul said the same, in order for Timothy to avoid getting disillusioned with his service to God and the saints. “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
So besides the normal difficulties of life that everyone suffers, Christians will also suffer persecution. And they bear up with joy, for they know that all this has a reason.
In the end, they will be with God forever, where there will be no pain, no suffering, no death, no ups and downs. Only constant joy.
Of all the opportunities, this is the greatest of all.