Sometimes life is hard. When it is, I’m always anxious to “learn my lessons” quickly and get past the challenges to where life is easy again. I sometimes fool myself into thinking that if I’m pleasing God, my life will continue to be smooth and easy all the time.
I’m not sure where that idea comes from, but it’s not from scripture. Oh sure, if I cross out enough disagreeable verses and just highlight a few comforting passages, I could make the case that God wants to make my life easy. But ask Job, Paul, or even Jesus, and you’ll discover that God is more concerned with His glory and our holiness than He is with our earthly contentedness.
As a first reaction, this isn’t a very comforting thought. But as I reflect on it further I remind myself that God knows what He’s doing, He hasn’t lost control, He loves me, and He’s okay with letting me struggle or He would stop it. So I start to smile as I remember that my struggles are among the “all things” that work together for good (Romans 8:28), even if they only look that way when viewed through the rear-view mirror.
So I gain the courage and strength to continue on, remembering Paul’s words from prison, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Philippians 4:11) Sometimes time in the struggles is important. A lesson learned too quickly may not provide us with the depth of understanding, credibility with fellow-strugglers, opportunities for others to glorify God by caring for us, or ultimately the heights of joy in reflection that longer struggles create.
I will still look forward to those blessed times of relative ease and thank God for them. But I’m learning to accept the blessing of time spent struggling and to be thankful for that as well.
Without struggle, there is no need for strength. Without doubt, there is no need for faith. Without pain, there is no need for comfort. I want strength, faith, and comfort, so I need the struggles, doubts, and pain that generate them.