March 20, 2016

What is the Purpose of Difficulties?

Believe me, the last thing I want to do is diminish anybody’s trials. I know what it’s like to have long-lasting struggles that make a person wonder how they’ll endure another day.  What we go through is real--and difficult.

The Universal Nature of Trials

We aren't alone in our challenges. In some cases, people show only the best side of themselves in public. On the outside, we see only smiles, beautiful clothes, well-behaved children, or a strong marriage.  

Appearances are often deceptive. The real story is often deep and complicated:
  • The “happy” marriage is stronger because of a recent, traumatic separation.
  • That well-mannered young adult struggled with depression for years.
  • A healthy baby arrived only after three miscarriages.
  • The successful entrepreneur failed at five other businesses.
  • An athlete lost 60 pounds and endured years of training.
The Purpose of Trials

What’s the common theme of the examples listed above? Victory comes only after struggle. This implies that having weaknesses, and overcoming them, is an important part of life. To my mind, this is an extremely unpleasant, yet unavoidable, fact.

Trials are the only way to learn patience, humility, perseverance, and other absolutely crucial traits. Challenges wouldn’t come about without frailties, so we need them.

Imperfection in Biblical Figures

It’s tempting to think that prominent figures in the Bible grew up perfect and remained that way. Perhaps they sailed through life on clear, blue waters with no concern. They had no flaws at all, right? Wrong! They became stronger leaders through dealing with their flaws:
  • Peter was short-tempered and impulsive.
  • Paul persecuted the Christians and probably witnessed some of their executions.
  • Moses suffered from self-doubt.
  • John called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” many times throughout his gospel. While this was a healthy attitude, in theory, I wonder if it was misunderstood by some of the other disciples. Personally, I think I might have misinterpreted it as arrogance.

The Benefits of Having Flaws

We receive Christ’s help.
In 2 Corinthians 12 (NIV), we learn that Paul has an unspecified weakness. He asked the Lord to deliver him from it three times. Verses 9 and 10 give the answer: “’…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We learn determination.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us in his gospel (James 1:2-4 [NIV]): “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be made sure and complete, not lacking anything.”
My Conclusion

Everyone has struggles, although they aren’t always obvious. Even biblical figures had problems.

Important life lessons are learned through identifying our weaknesses and working hard to overcome them. In this way, individuals can learn to become more strong-minded and to rely on Christ’s strength.

How are your weaknesses strengthening you?

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