Thank God for the Trying Times

Our lives do not always mirror the image of perfection or go the way we wish or envisioned they would have. Life gets distorted and messy, and it seems that we have been riding our storms for way too long while our prayers always go unanswered. We get angry, distraught, or frazzled whenever our lives become hectic, plans get delayed, find ourselves haunted by hindsight, or we seem to hit the bottom. The mental mouse trap of I should have done this, Why did I experience this horrible season, I should have this by now, and why isn't this happening for me begins to wind up. We spend days, months, and sometimes even years riddled with guilt, resentment, shame, anger, and sadness over situations that didn't work out the way we envisioned or times we undoubtedly fell short.

But do we ever take the time and realize that what we didn’t but could have experienced was likely much worse? If we believe and say that all things work together or that everything happens for a reason, why don't we apply it for all situations? What is the message in the mess?

"Conscious is to the soul what pain is to the body. We would like to avoid pain as much as possible, but at the same time we recognize pain is a gift from God. If you didn't have pain, you would destroy yourself. Pain is critical to physical preservation. And so the conscious is critical to spiritual preservation." - John McArthur

It's one thing for someone to tell us it's hot, but it's a totally different story to experience excruciating pain while trying to heal a burn. We can read about situations, watch movies, and even seek counsel from others but there is no greater teacher than a painful experience. Unlike a positive memory, painful ones have the capability to stop us in our tracks and make us certain to not ever experience anything close to it again. They teach to analyze ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and use pain as a deterrent to never return. What injures our egos oftentimes give us insight to what really is. If we look back to our childhood, we can now clearly why different children warranted different parenting styles. We all had to take a punishment in some form or fashion that was tailored to what not only hurt most, but also drove the lesson home. Pain in the form of punishment, whether mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual not only helps us learn, but also motivates change and provides insight. It's the suffering that is our saving grace.

As smart as we may think we are, we don’t know what the future holds and what lies in the distance. There are numerous times we wanted things or outcomes so badly only to find out later that if we would have received what we prayed about, dreamed of, or longed for, our lives could have taken a disastrous turn. Instead of getting hung up on what He allowed to happen, we should open our eyes and ask ourselves what did He protect us from.

What kind of influence would we have had if we remained friends with those people? What kind of unhealthy lifestyle would we be living if we would have stayed in certain relationships? What doors wouldn’t have opened if we did get that job? We don't know the answers to those questions and that's probably a good thing, because one thing is certain. We wouldn't be the same people or living the same life had things worked out our way or how we thought was best. Many of our burdens, bruises, and times of brokenness were blessings in disguise that protected us from an even bigger fall down the road.

We can’t progress to a new level with the same mindset, burdens, influences, and energies of the old. It’s beyond difficult at times to accept that though we want to change, not everyone around us is ready to or wants to do the same. Moreover, not everyone accepts the growth track we’ve embraced. Because of that, friendships fade, issues arise, we outgrow things we once enjoyed, and we are forced to walk a path we never have. 

As simple as that may sound, it’s difficult, devastating and depressing because we struggle to understand and accept that stage of life whenever we are in it. It feels like we are losing everyone and everything and we just want to control it with as little friction as possible. But in actuality, what's being taken away is making room for better. The pain doesn’t come from what we think is rejection of our new or growing selves. It comes from our resistance to submit to the process. 

Through my experiences, I've learned that the pain from failure, rejection, discomfort and suffering are allowed into our lives because they hold a power that can be used to serve many purposes. It can inflict punishment or act as protection, while other times it is a tool to change our perspective or force necessary pruning. As much as I’ve tried to run from it, cried over it, or prayed it would go away, it is pain that has enlightened me and brought about the most change and sense of awareness in my life. There is a reason for everything, even when it hurts.

I was blessed with wisdom and an increased level of understanding as a direct effect of being chastised for my foolishness. There are amazing friendships that thrived in my life after I lost what I thought were those closest to me. But most humbling of all is that I've seen first hand many things I've been shielded from, not because I was entitled to such revelation, but because the pain that was a result of my darkness was used to open my eyes. When I let myself feel it and see myself and reality for what it was, I was able to not only learn from it, but I also allowed it to transform me in areas that could be used for something good. Pride led to my fall but the hard times gave me humility and the desire to become better. As much as I find myself dwelling on certain aspects of my life, I see the growth that came forth. There is a purpose for pain, direction in discomfort, and a blessing in every unanswered prayer.

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