Welcoming Difficulty

Americans are funny people.

While we yearn for life on easy street, we are attracted to people who have made their way despite a long season of difficulty in their lives.

While we are drawn to heroes who have overcome the challenges of suffering and hardship, we hold to a sense of entitlement that life should be easy, short on difficulties and long on blessings.

Anytime a difficulty comes our way, we will cry out in protest and complain that life is unfair.  Perhaps this is why our United States Budget is bloated with entitlement spending, we wish we could make life easy for everyone all the time.

In the 1500’s, Martin Luther, wrote:

It’s important for believers to be tested by trials. Without these tests, our faith would grow cold and weak. It could eventually disappear completely. (1)

If overcoming difficulty is such a formative aspect of building good character and strong faith, why do Christians whine when life is not easy?

The Apostle Paul wrote:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us. (Romans 5:3-5)

My favorite professor at Princeton Seminary, who had lived in Holland during the Holocaust and who had spent several years living on the streets battling an alcohol addiction, blasted Paul for these words.

He became apoplectic when people wanted to say suffering was good and was a blessing from God.  I understand his strong reaction to Paul’s teaching.  He had playmates who did not have the opportunity to build good character out of their suffering.

While I will never preach that suffering is good, I know that a life filled only with comfort and joy undermines character and faith.  Difficulty has taught me to trust God and to patiently wait for His deliverance.

When I am going through hardship, I quietly sing Jesus Loves Me, as a reminder that God loves me.  This simple children’s song was spoken to comfort Johnny Fax, a dying child, in Anna and Susan Warner’s novel Say and Seal, written in the 1860’s.

During seasons of difficulty knowing that God loves me is often my only source of comfort.

Jesus loves me! this I know, for the Bible tells me so. 

Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong. 

Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

.

(1) Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 61). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
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