I once read about an emperor moth being released from its cocoon by a botanist to ease its struggle to escape. As a result, it never developed its splendorous colors and died prematurely. It was then discovered that unless the insect exerts itself to be free of its cocoon, its wings will not develop strength and beauty.
How like our spiritual journey is that example! We wish to rid ourselves of anything that is painful or problematic in our lives with the least amount of effort. We take “magic” pills available to miraculously help us to lose weight instead of wading through months of exercise and healthy eating habits. We ride when we could walk, take elevators instead of climbing stairs, and watch frivolous television instead of reading a classic novel or communicating with family members. Furthermore, we shy away from anything that might give us discomfort, because what feels the best is the easiest.
Now, granted, I’m not acquainted with anyone who says,
“I love being sick! . . . I really get excited about the prospect of being fired by my boss . . . I am so happy my best friend died . . . because I know I will be a better person for the lessons I learn from going through such struggles.” (See James 1:2-4)
But, I DO hear them say,
“In hindsight, I am glad I had to go through this or that, because it has built strength, character, and beauty into my life . . .In going through a particular experience, I gained sensitivity to the pain of others going through the same type of situation and was able to comfort them as one who has ‘been there, done that’. (See II Corinthians 1:3-4)
Generally, success and happiness are overrated. It can be very lonely at the top, and once there, nowhere to go but down. And when we trust the gifts showered upon us to bring us happiness more than the Giver of those gifts, we are destined for deep disillusionment and disappointment.
Just as to be a leader one must first be a servant, so must we travel through trials and pain before we can truly grow and develop character and beauty. Show me a deeply happy individual and I’ll show you a person who has overcome adversity. Have you ever noticed that
to get to the mountaintop you have to start in the valley . . . to be lifted up you have to first be down . . . one cannot appreciate success without having experienced failure . . . to get a rainbow one must first know rain . . . to teach one must first learn . . . And, the greatest enigma of all . . . to save your life you must first lose it?
Just as we allow our children to suffer from the results of their poor choices because we realize rescuing them consistently will keep them from learning their actions lead to consequences, so our Father God in heaven allows us to reap what we sow. Other times, in His wisdom, He allows us to go through various trials so He can mold us into a more beautiful and/or useful person, much as a potter forms and reshapes his creations. (See Jeremiah 18)
The cause of suffering quite often boils down to being born with the freedom of choice. Did you ever think that if God did not allow us this freedom, there would be no pain or suffering in our world? Would a world without freedom of choice be worse that a world without pain? Think about this prospect for a few minutes. If there was no pain or suffering, would anyone think they needed God? It is usually poverty, grief, hunger, pain, and/or the guilt of sin that drives us to the Lord.
Sometimes, we never find out in this world, why God allows certain things to happen to us, even after-the-fact. But, I, for one, choose to believe that in many cases, we have to come to the end of our resources to recognize our helplessness and hopelessness so that we reach up to Jesus because there is no other place left to go.
And, when we do that, we give Him the opportunity to reveal His power and grace as totally sufficient for our need! (See II Corinthians 12:9)
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