20170923

7 Life Lessons Many Only Learn When They're Suffering

Truth is, none of us wants to go through a storm. Not just hurricanes, but storms in our finances, in our jobs and in our families. If only the days could be all sunshine and clear skies. Those are the kinds of days we pray for. And often the kinds of days we think we’re entitled to.

But storms are actually vital for us. God uses them not only to reveal himself but to shape us to become more like Christ. It’s not just that storms teach. 

It’s that there are lessons we can only understand in a storm...

1. Real gratitude 
While in prison, Paul wrote that he had “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”Philippians 4:12. It’s easy to be grateful when things in life are going well. When the bank account is full and the children are behaving. But even in difficulty we can find things to be grateful for. Stopping to look for God’s good hand and keep a daily gratitude list helps us see that God is at work all around us even when circumstances are hard.

2. Real joy 
Paul taught another truth in prison -- to rejoice in all things. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 After my husband died suddenly, I wondered if I’d ever feel real joy again. I thought it would come months later, after I’d processed the shock and grief. To my surprise, God brought moments of joy in the midst of grief. Evenings with friends. Birthday celebrations with family. Little surprises in my day. Storms show us that real joy comes in the hard, not after.

3. Real peace 
We’re apt to think peace is when the kids are in bed, the house is clean and quiet, and our favorite movie is on for the evening. But that’s not peace; that’s calm. Peace isn’t the absence of difficulty. It’s the presence of God. This too, Paul found while in prison, writing: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” God’s presence brings peace even when circumstances are storming around us.

4. Real treasure 
This material world tells us we need bigger, newer and more. Before the hurricane hit, I could have given you a long list of things I thought I needed. But when it looked like we’d need to evacuate, none of that mattered. In the dark storms that shatter life as you know it, what’s really valuable becomes crystal clear. Again from prison, Paul affirmed this: “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” Philippians 3:8.

5. Real strength 
Often, we can handle the mild annoyances and problems that surface on easy days. But trials bring us to the end of ourselves. In those times, we realize we’re completely dependent on God. We need him to give us wisdom, to replace our fear with faith and to give us strength to battle the storm. But that’s a good place to be. God designed us to be utterly dependent on him. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9a.

6. Real faithfulness 
It’s easy to quote the promises of God when life is good. But do they hold up in the hard? Storms show us they do. We can see God’s faithfulness in ways we never see on sunny days. That’s when we can cement our own faith, when it becomes deeply personal because we see firsthand how God meets our needs and takes care of us in the hard. It’s in the storms we so often see God do things we couldn’t even ask or imagine. “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.” Psalm 25:10

7. Real home 
Trials in life remind us that this world is not our home. Difficult diagnoses, deep grief and financial losses are stark reminders that this world is temporary. We’re often forced to let go of things that don’t matter in the long – and the short – run. We can refocus from building our own kingdom to working towards God’s kingdom. Storms can be difficult; even brutal. But Corinthians 4:17 tells us “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

None of us are immune from the storms of life. While we don’t know how or when they will hit, God has assured us they will come. But just like hurricanes, we can prepare. First, we need to ensure we’ve trusted our eternity to God. Second, we can strengthen our faith through regular Bible study. And finally, we can join with other believers in a solid church to help weather storms together.

[written by Lisa Appelo, a young widow]