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FIRST-PERSON: Growing through trials

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt. 6:3).

LEBANON, Tenn. (BP)–As a rehab doctor in a veteran’s hospital, my husband treats soldiers who have recently returned from the war in Iraq as well as veterans from past wars.

Not surprisingly, many of these men and women have been through some terrible traumas and have not only physical injuries to deal with but emotional scars, as well. What is surprising to him is how differently people respond to their wounds. Some soldiers are stoic about their pain and keep their nightmares to themselves. Some wear their wounds on their sleeves and continue to live in angry bitterness. Some give up and turn to drugs or alcohol to dull the memories. And some incredibly grow stronger. It is this last group that interests me most.

Why do some people experience the same trauma, loss and suffering as others, but they never give up? In fact, they actually grow from their experiences and go on to do amazing things — even to help others who are suffering.

It would be grossly presumptuous on my part to say that I understand where these men and women are coming from. My traumas are puny in comparison with what they have endured. Yet, they have been big enough to cause me pain — divorce, leaving friends behind, deaths of loved ones, miscarriage, and so on. Life is hard for us all at times. Some crumble under the weight of it, and others grow stronger. Therefore, my question remains — what makes the difference? Why, even as a child, did I feel that each event, even the painful ones, provided a lesson to be learned and to be used? Is it simply a matter of personal fortitude? That would be presumptuous. No, I can be as big a weenie as the next guy. Is it wholly due to personality traits? No, I see both survivors and victims in all personality types. Is it found in other characteristics: gender, race, age, education wealth? Again, the obvious response is no.

The answer to my question seems to lie in believing that there is a greater purpose to life than personal welfare and physical well-being. Not a delusion of grandeur, but a spiritual perception that there is something more — that this world is not our final destination and what happens in it is in some way a training ground for what will follow. It is the heartfelt belief that God has a plan for each one of us and for the world as a whole. Nothing happens only by chance. Nothing is beyond His redemptive reach or outside of His control. He sees, He knows, and He will not let us suffer in vain.

I believe that we always have a choice: to give in and live as a victim to the pain and suffering of life on this planet or to choose to live in His victory and strength. Even as I write these words, I confess that I am not often up to such a positive choice. Without His reaching down to lift me, I could not even choose to seek Him. But He does reach down! The knowledge of that truth fills my heart with joy. Yes, “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). But “consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18), and rejoice.

Let the knowledge of that glory change you now and forever — for your benefit, for the benefit of those around you, and for the glory of His name. It makes all the difference in the world and in the world to come.
Lisa is a freelance writer who lives with her husband, Chuck, their three kids, two dogs, and two cats on a farm in Middle Tennessee.

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  • Lisa Huddleston