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Topic: Learning for Life (08/23/04)

TITLE: Learning in Disguise
By Roger Crane


ďI am a lifelong learner,Ē I wrote on my resume early in my teaching career, barely guessing the range of meaning which lurks under the surface in that little phrase. We all want to see ourselves as learners, but I wonder: Are we sufferers?

What a strange question, you say. But, if you think about those times in life when you learned your greatest lessons, wasnít there a degree of suffering involved? Did you not experience uncomfortableness, anxiety, fear, or downright agony?

Youíve probably guessed that Iím speaking about the most important kind of learning, the lessons of life. A ďlifelong learnerĒ is a lifelong sufferer--unless we are merely talking about superficial acquisition of knowledge. Have you suffered much in life? If you have, chances are youíve learned a great deal. Otherwise, youíre just boasting, like I did on my resume for school.

In the Christian realm, learning is of the essence, since we all approach Christianity--and Godís perfectness-- as very imperfect creatures. We truly need to be lifelong learners if we want to access the nature of Christ and be successful as Christians.

The problem is that no one likes to suffer! But, you cannot go far with God without a lot of suffering. Iím sorry, but thatís the way it is. Some people refuse to suffer: They pick that famous ďpath of least resistance.Ē But they also miss opportunities for growth and happiness. Any suffering they do experience will be of little value to them.

Most of the time when we go through trials and problems we have no glimmer of an idea that we are learning anything. Usually, we canít see things as they are. Itís only when we get beyond that event that we are able to stand back and look at it for what it was.

Itís like climbing over a rugged landscape in a storm, struggling upward, but not being able to tell where you are--except that you can see the path beneath your feet. Then, the storm clears, and you see youíre on the summit. You can look back over your way and see that the path was good. Itís then that learning takes place.

Now, there is suffering which God allows in your life to perfect you, and suffering which you bring upon yourself. But, the truth is that God shields you even from your own mistakes, unless they can be used to improve you (see Ro. 8:28). We have the potential to learn from our own mistakes more than from anything else, and they are often used by God.

For a Christian, suffering is really learning in disguise. The more we obey God, and embrace whatever happens in our lives that we cannot control, committing it into Godís hands, the more He will be able to teach us through it. If we look at the lives of some Bible characters, we see that they were lifelong learners. They suffered much!

Abraham obeyed God, going to the ďbackside of the desert,Ē and he suffered most of his life. How did he suffer? He had no heir. He lived in obscurity and isolation. Yet, he learned about the nature of God. He learned so much that when God told him to sacrifice his heir--after twenty-five years of waiting--he immediately obeyed, without complaint. He had learned that God keeps his word, no matter what. Abraham knew God, and was called a ďfriend of God.Ē This, and the fact that Messiah came from his seed, was his reward.

Look at King David. He made many mistakes in life, and yet he, too. knew God. From the days of his youth, till the day he died, he had an unbroken fellowship with God. God made David the standard by which he judged the righteousness of all the kings which followed him. This is awesome! It says that we can make mistakes, and yet gain Godís approval--if we learn from them. David never took another woman who was not his, after Bathsheba. He knew how to change his ways. He learned about Godís character and nature enough to fill the Psalms with his praises.

Learning involves mistakes, corrections, and changes in our attitudes. When we can take correction (wherever it comes from), then we have become mature. When we can look back over the paths of our lives and see Godís faithfulness, then we will know that it was worth the suffering to get where we are.

Member Comments
Member Date
Al Boyce08/30/04
Thanks Roger. I like the picture of Abraham as a "lifelong learner."
L.M. Lee09/02/04
Roger, a very profound piece full of truth we all need to hear. We don't hear much about suffering from the pulpit anymore. It seems Jesus was supposed to have suffered for everyone...no one else need to.