We tend to wish that everything in life would go well for us and for those whom we care about, and we tend to grumble and gripe when things do not go well for us or for our loved ones. Yet, throughout history, those who are wise have recognized that the struggles and disappointments of life often develop character in us that we would miss otherwise.
Heraccitus, who lived from 540 to 480 B.C. recorded, “It is not good for all of your wishes to be fulfilled…. Through sickness you recognize the value of health; through evil, the value of good; through hunger, the value of food; and through exertion, the value of rest.”
I love the way an old Irish Prayer asks God to bless a loved one with the thing the person needs to match the struggle they may face:
May God give you:
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.
While speaking at his son’s graduation from Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire last month, Chief Justice John Roberts offered similar sentiment: “Now commencement speakers will typically…wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either…. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”
That final sentence offers great counsel. We will all encounter unfair treatment in our lives, and betrayal, and loneliness, and bad luck, and pain, but it is our willingness and ability to look for meaning and growth from these challenges that makes all the difference in our lives.
Looking back upon the difficulties he faced in his life, J.C. Penney remarked, “I am grateful for all my problems. As each of them was overcome, I became stronger and more able to meet those yet to come. I grew in all my difficulties.”
My prayer for those who read this column is that God will give you wisdom and strength and fortitude for every struggle that comes your way, that He will provide some blessing in every trial, and that for every problem, He will send a caring friend who will help lighten your burden and encourage your spirit.
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.