I bet you’ve heard, “Trials will either make you bitter or better.” In The Payback of Pain we looked at how God uses suffering to better us. Trials can be a tool to free us from our fleshly limitations and create the capacity to enjoy His good gifts.
But is “better” the automatic outcome of suffering? What is our part in the equation of pain equaling gain?
Romans 5:3-5 (NIV) tells us, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”
At the first twinge of pain, we want to zoom from suffering to hope skipping over the middle of the process, but notice the progression. Suffering produces PERSEVERANCE. Perseverance then produces proven character. When we experience internal change like becoming more patient, loving, peaceful better people — then we have hope! We can say and mean it, “Wow, I hope I never have to go through that again, but I would not give up what I’ve gained through it for all the world.”
Years ago a client remarked that she had been meditating on these verses and in frustration one day moaned, “Dear God, Where is the hope?” She immediately sensed God’s reply, “Dear one, where is the character?”
The origin of the word character comes from a term used for an engraving tool. Perseverance is our part in allowing God to use trials to chisel out the character of Christ in our lives (Rom. 8:29).
God doesn’t want His children to grow up to be emotionally needy or immature any more than we do. Knowing God holds the chisel can help us patiently endure. He is the master artist and knows what He’s doing.
Learn from nature. You can’t change the seasons of the year. Every year has a winter. Some are long, some mild, some harsh, but every cycle includes winter. It would be foolish to waste energy trying to stop winter or complaining that winter is a part of every year. Instead take hope in what follows every winter– spring! Look around you. Spring is a very beautiful and fruitful season. In nature and in life, winter is always followed by spring. Winters are necessary for spring.
Just as winter comes before spring, so perseverance precedes hope. The process of staying on course in our faith develops the consistent character we really want in ourselves and those we love.
What hard circumstance is draining your hope? Don’t quit and become bitter. Hang in there and grow better. God knows exactly where to chisel. Hope is on its way!
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