3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5
These verses carried me through the hardest time in my life over 14 years ago. I read this passage again this morning with a different set of eyes. A confident set of eyes. A heart that knows and understands. A life that can testify to it over and over and over again.
Our initial reaction to adversity and problems isn’t, “Well thank you, Jesus. This is going to grow me and strengthen my character.” No. It can be anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and so many other things. Certainly not happiness that we get to endure something hard. It’s not a normal reaction. Hey, you’re normal. So, I am I! However, once we get over the initial shock and awe of it, we get to make a choice how we are going to through the problem. Whether the problem is as large as what I endured 14 years ago when my husband walked out or even if it is as small as a conflict at your work, we get to choose to endure it with a confident hope that He will grow us and work it for our good.
So, what do we do after we get over the initial onset of a problem? I wanted to share some things that I do that may help you, too. First, I vent upward. That means I don’t share my problem with someone who isn’t on the same page of life with me spiritually. Because, that person may feed into my anger or resentment where nothing redemptive comes from it. I vent to someone who has compassion but who also brings light to it. They help me process it from a position of forgiveness and understanding. They remind me to trust Him. The conversation is always redemptive.
I slow down. Haste causes us to react instead of respond. It causes a build up of negative emotions and feelings that are hard to come down from. I slow down my responses, my comments, my time. When we slow down, we are able to think more clearly, take captive our thoughts that are negative more easily, and avoid making the mistake of saying or doing something we might regret.
I pray and meditate. This keeps my heart soft and refocuses my thoughts. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Don’t worry about your problem. Don’t dwell on it. Tell God what you need, and THANK Him for everything He has already done. Everything He has already delivered you from and made better for you. Re-center your thoughts on Him and on thankfulness. When you catch yourself dwelling on the problem, replace that thought with all of the good in your life. Everything you have to be thankful for. THEN, peace will flood your life.
Finally, I am open to change. What if I am the one that is the problem? What if God is not just working something for my good, but what if He is changing ME? What if I created the problem myself? Stay open to accept responsibility. Allow people you trust to speak into your life.
All problems are meant for our growth. I learned a long time ago to say, “Nothing goes wrong in my world.” Instead, every situation is an opportunity to grow. To learn. An opportunity to be a better friend. A better mom. A better wife. A better person. Without running into hard situations, it is impossible to become BETTER. So, with that knowledge, we really can rejoice in hard times. Because, we are then presented with an opportunity for our lives to be better. We may not always see the end from the beginning and know the hows and whys, but we can trust in the One who is working all things, ALL, for our good.