Hardship: The Great Teacher

February 2, 2012

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As an American living abroad, I watch my nation from afar and see many issues facing it. People are concerned about the economy and jobs. Negative politics dominate the headlines. It seems like natural disasters keep rolling through. 

When I began in missions 20 years ago, Americans were known as hopeful and overcoming. This seems to be changing. We now seem to be negative and cynical proclaimers of doom and gloom.

I recently have had a few disappointments which left me feeling as if my hope was deferred. Walking through this journey, I’ve been considering how grace impacts our everyday life, especially in difficulties.

When I see the Biblical authors speaking about grace during trials, it was not something they learned in a classroom or a textbook. It came from facing much more than we have. 

David fled for his life.
Jeremiah was told his ministry would fail before it began, yet he was faithful.
Peter went from denier to martyr.

In 2 Corinthians 2:7-10, Paul is pleading for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. God does not answer this prayer, but promises “his grace is sufficient, my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul goes on to boast in this weakness. This understanding came as he walked through hardship. God did not answer his prayer.

Here are three things we can learn about grace during difficulties

1. Grace Strengthens us
None of us want weakness. We strive and perform, attempting to mask any weakness in our lives. Paul boasts in it!  The sufficient grace that comes is linked to the ideas of contentment. Paul can be just as content and peaceful in weakness.

2. Grace teaches us, giving us the ability to learn and change.
The active force of grace in our lives takes difficulties and turns them into learning experiences. Failures or mistakes are not fatal, in fact they are expected. Difficulties serve to teach, stretch, and grow us as we mature in our walk with God.

3. Grace prepares us for heaven
In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Paul speaks of “light momentary afflictions preparing us for the weight of eternal glory.” Paul definition of light and momentary includes persecution, prison, shipwreck, and flogging to name a few (2 Cor. 6:4-5).

He says these things will pass away. They serve to prepare us for the glory of heaven. Having no tears in heaven (Rev. 21:4) will be magnified since we have shed tears on Earth. When we taste the bad news, the good gets even better. 

In light of these, how do we respond to hardship?

Is it doom and gloom?
Do we turn negative and critical?

We can be real with our emotions as David was in the Psalms, Similarly, we must move through the pain to a place of worship, like David, in spite of our difficulties.

Even when you can’t explain it, when life seems out of control,  we take comfort in knowing God’s grace will be sufficient.

A powerful lesson I have learned from my African brothers and sisters, is their response to difficulties. In America, when trials come we often ask God to remove it. Africans have come to expect hardship. This causes them to pray differently.  Their prayer to God is not the removal of trials, rather the strength to endure.

I want this to be my prayer. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” In that, I will endure.

What are you going through that requires grace? 

Take the challenge to endure and not fall into negativity.

Photo by jronaldlee courtesy of Creative Commons by Flickr

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God