Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Suffering Builds Character

Image by ephotography
When the zombie apocalypse comes Michiganders will be fine.  While the world goes into panic mode and civilization ends, we'll continue to produce cars, cereal, and muffin mix as though nothing changed. This is not because of our active para-military organizations, well armed gangsters, or our fondness for roughing it. No, it takes more than weapons and knowledge to weather a zombie apocalypse; it takes grit, something we've developed in large supply. We've learned how to push forward when we feel there's no reason to hope. Economic trials and countless bitter winters have ingrained this virtue in our bones so that in the bleakest of circumstances we will not give up. We have been conditioned to suspect that we may lose everything at a moment's notice, to hope we won't, and go on with life anyway.

Paul writes about being content regardless of his circumstances (Philippians 4:12), and to some extent I think you have to face serious hardships in order to learn this attitude. James and Paul both promises us that suffering produces character, perseverance, and hope (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4). These verses do not always feel encouraging.  They feel like something Calvin's dad would say, but they're true. I know remarkable men and women of character, hope, and perseverance, and I've no doubt in my mind that it was their struggles that tempered them into the remarkable people that they are.

If you've read The Return of The King you remember how awesome the scourging of the Shire was. The Scourging of the Shire was a book-only adventure in which the hobbits returned to the Shire to find it overrun and enslaved. Merry and Pippin lead a revolt so swift and sudden that it barely occupied an afternoon. They wrecked their enemies in an instant, because after what they've been through there was nothing in the world that could have plausibly stood against them. This is what our hardships do to us, they build our character and turn us into warrior hobbits.


2 Corinthians 1 says that our suffering enables us to comfort others when they have trouble. Take a moment to consider that this is true for you and your own hardships. What trials are you facing today? How will God use those trials to produce character and hope? Know that God sees you in the midst of your hardship and is working it out for your benefit and his glory (Romans 8:28). Praise God for life's difficulties today; God loves you enough to turn you into a hero.


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