Our Bible verse for today: “And not only that, but we rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.” Romans 5:3-4 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “You honor God when you handle difficulties well.”
Dr. Paul Tournier once wrote a landmark book about how people handle suffering and tough times. The title was “Creative Suffering”. At one place in the book Dr. Tournier writes about a study he came across of 300 of the most influential leaders in history. One thing all 300 had in common is that they had all suffered greatly in life, either with health issues or personal tragedies. Suffering and tragedy was a common thread in the lives of those who ultimately rose to greatness in life. It was the lessons learned while pushing through the difficulties that helped to make them great.
I once read a story about a boy who found a butterfly about to emerge from a cocoon. The metamorphous that changed the caterpillar into a butterfly had already taken place and now the butterfly was fighting its way out of the cocoon. The boy decided to help the butterfly emerge by taking his knife and cutting an opening in the cocoon, thereby relieving the butterfly of the struggle required to break out of the cocoon by its own effort. When he slit the cocoon the butterfly quickly emerged. But rather than spreading its wings and flying away, the butterfly remained ugly and shriveled. It hobbled around on the ground for a short period and then it fell over and died.
What the boy didn’t realize was that the process of the struggle required to break out of the cocoon would have forced strengthening juices to pump through the butterfly’s wings, straightening and shaping them. But without the struggle, the formation was never completed and therefore the butterfly never became the thing of beauty and grace God intended it to be. Instead it was weak and deformed and quickly perished.
Our struggles strengthen us. As a result of the process of pushing through the difficulties, we stretch and strain, we grow and get stronger. This is what Paul meant in Romans 5:3-4. He did not mean that we should be happy to be suffering, or that we should seek suffering, only that we should recognize how God can and does use our suffering to make us stronger and better.
In his extensive studies on how people handle suffering and difficulties Dr. Tournier found that a person’s attitude about their difficulties determined how well they would handle that situation, and whether the situation would break them or make them a stronger and better person.
As was noted yesterday, when we’re faced with trials and difficulties in life our normal response is to pray and ask God to take it away. And sometimes He will. But more often His desire is for us to honor Him in the way we handle it, and to grow stronger and better as a result of it. You honor God when you handle your difficulties well.