Which is easy to say until you are in the midst of a really big one, I know. But the only people I am aware of who don't have troubles are gathered in little neighborhoods. Most communities have at least one. We call them cemeteries.
If you're breathing, you have difficulties. It's the way of life. And believe it or not, most of your problems may actually be good for you! Let me explain.
Maybe you have seen the Great Barrier Reef, stretching some 1,800 miles from New Guinea to Australia. Tour guides regularly take visitors to view the reef. On one tour, the guide was asked an interesting question.
"I notice that the lagoon side of the reef looks pale and lifeless, while the ocean side is vibrant and colorful," a traveler observed. "Why is this?"
The guide gave an interesting answer: "The coral around the lagoon side is in still water, with no challenge for its survival. It dies early. The coral on the ocean side is constantly being tested by wind, waves, storms -- surges of power. It has to fight for survival every day of it's life. As it is challenged and tested it changes and adapts. It grows healthy. It grows strong. And it reproduces." Then he added this telling note: "That's the way it is with every living organism."
That is how it is with people! Challenged and tested, we come alive! Like coral pounded by the sea, we grow! Physical demands can cause us to grow stronger. Mental and emotional stress can produce tough-mindedness and resiliency. Spiritual testing can produce strength of character and faithfulness.
So, you have problems -- no problem! Just tell yourself, "There I grow again!"
The problems you face will either defeat you or develop you -- depending on how you respond to them. Unfortunately most people fail to see how God wants to use problems for good in their lives. They react foolishly and resent their problems rather than pausing to consider what benefit they might bring. Here are five ways God wants to use the problems in your life:
- God uses problems to DIRECT you. Sometimes God must light a fire under you to get you moving. Problems often point us in a new direction and motivate us to change. Is God trying to get your attention?
- God uses problems to INSPECT you. People are like tea bags . . . if you want to know what's inside them, just drop them into hot water! Has God ever tested your faith with a problem? What do problems reveal about you?
- God uses problems to CORRECT you. Some lessons we learn only through pain and failure. It's likely that as a child your parents cold you not to touch a hot stove. But you probably learned by being burned. Sometimes we only learn the value of something ... health, money, a relationship . . . by losing it.
- God uses problems to PROTECT you. A problem can be a blessing in disguise if it prevents you from being harmed by something more serious. Last year a friend was fired for refusing to do something unethical that his boss had asked him to do. His unemployment was a problem -- but it saved him from being convicted and sent to prison a year later when management's actions were eventually discovered.
- God uses problems to PERFECT you. Problems, when responded to correctly, are character builders. God is far more interested in your character than your comfort. Your relationship to God and your character are the only two things you're going to take with you into eternity.
Here's the point: God is at work in your life -- even when you do not recognize it or understand it. But it's much easier and profitable when you do.
The difficult spells in our lives come to an end. And no matter the depth of our disturbance, we will survive. We forget that the depths teach us how to better appreciate the heights. Sorrow heightens joy. Depression heightens laugher. We wouldn't know the joys and laughter were it not for the sorrows. In them we learn to be patient, waiting for the wisdom which will light our way. In them we learn to listen for the guidance that beckons us forth. We must reflect on the troubling experiences we've passed through of late. They changed us, moving us ever closer to the person, whole and happy, we desire to be. Difficulties often precede enlightenment. They pull us inward, perhaps push us to search for our connectedness to God, a connectedness that is at home in our hearts. The paradox is that these painful periods strengthen our oneness with the spirit.