I’m going to suggest something radical.  I believe our trials turn into talents.  Let me tell you how it happens.

Years ago I taught a youth class and was dismayed to find that most of the kids felt they had no talents.  Of course, they were looking at the ones the world applauds-music, athletics, artistic ability-and had completely forgotten about the (actually more important) ones, such as kindness, common sense, listening skills, obedience, a good work ethic, faith, humility, a sense of humor, selflessness.  We could go on and on, but wouldn’t you rather have a kid who has mastered those virtues instead of the violin?  Not that you can’t have both, but you see what I’m saying: We often emphasize the wrong achievements and forget to congratulate kids for steps toward maturity and lasting joy.

And we also forget to include among our own talents the abilities we acquire from life’s knocks.  I’m so thrilled to be over 50, and to have had so many experiences that I finally feel I can really offer wisdom to other people.  Good heavens, there’s scarcely anything I don’t feel I’ve seen firsthand, or waded through with loved ones.  You want to know how to comfort someone whose aging parent has Alzheimer’s?  I’m your man.  Death of a sibling when you’re only 12 years old?   Been there.  Health, finances, betrayals, missed goals, wayward kids– I could go on and on, just as you could, listing all the trials you’ve survived.  But don’t you feel, well, smart?  If someone you know hits one of those roadblocks, you’d be able to guide them through, right?  And that gives us more value on the planet-we’re experts! 

How often do we hear people say they’d like to live life again, but with the knowledge they have now?  It shows we know how priceless this hard-won wisdom is.  And we can share it with others to soften the blows and let them know they’re not alone.  Abandonment, abuse, addiction, assault, bankruptcy, burned-down houses, cancer, crime, death, depression, and divorce– we could go right through the alphabet listing afflictions common in every ward in the world.  And if you’ve been down any of those paths, you’re the go-to person for compassion and insights.  You have a specific talent to help someone with that trial!  You are walking evidence that a particular problem is not insurmountable: You can tell others how you did it, how you turned to the Lord, how your testimony grew, how you found strengths you couldn’t have imagined you had, and how deeply you know the Lord loves you.  You can help another person repent-or forgive.  You can steer them towards professional help they may need.  You can help them take steps towards coping.  You can love them when the less-experienced back away.

If we try to learn from every setback, we increase our worth to others, and establish a safe haven where troubled people can come for real understanding. Of course none of us wants a life filled with difficulties and tragedies, but since we’re all going to have them, why not at least see them as intense tutoring for advanced degrees?  Do you have a doctorate in dealing with financial reversals– or with difficult relatives?  How about a master’s degree in staying married against all odds-or in coping with infertility?  Imagine the people who could benefit from what you’ve learned! 

Think of the worst problem you face right now.  Are you learning from it?  A year from now will you be able to put your arm around someone in a similar boat, and let them know how you got through it?  Picture it: You’ll be able to consecrate that experience to the Lord, to make something of lasting beauty from something that once stung so sharply.  And to lift another life in the process-isn’t that why we’re all here?  Instead of counting our losses, we count our triumphs.  Any one of us can do this.  Like a caterpillar who turns into a butterfly, the ugly hardships we encounter in life can transform into amazing blessings if we do one simple thing:  If we learn from them.

Be sure to read Hilton’s blog at jonihilton.blogspot.com.

Her book, “FUNERAL POTATOES-THE NOVEL” (Covenant Communications) is in LDS bookstores everywhere.

And her latest three novels, “JUNGLE,” “SISTERS IN THE MIX,” and “PINHOLES INTO HEAVEN” are all available in paperback at Createspace.com, or Kindle at www.mormonbooksandauthors.com.

Listen (and call in) to The Joni Hilton Show, streaming live on AM-1380 Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. PST.

Hilton has written 20 books, three award-winning plays, and is a frequent public speaker and a former TV talk show host. She is also the author of the “As the Ward Turns” series, “The Ten-Cow Wives’ Club,” and “The Power of Prayer.” Hilton is a frequent writer for “Music & The Spoken Word,” many national magazines.  She is married to TV personality Bob Hilton, is the mother of four, and currently serves as Relief Society President in her ward in northern California. She can be reached at her website, jonihilton.com, Twitter:@JoniHilton, and Facebook: Joni Hilton.