Cover image: “She Became Herself with Tears” by Caitlin Connolly.
When something bad, painful, or frustrating happens in your life, consider that it may be the EXACT thing you need to progress or move forward…
Infuriating Behavior that May Have Saved a Life
Several years ago, a surprising thing happened as we were having a “round-up” at our cattle ranch in Mexico. Because we had so many cattle to move that day, every horse we could spare was saddled up. Just as everyone was about to begin riding, one of our cowboys became angry about something and quit, which was infuriating for my husband Elbert. Why had the guy quit TODAY? Any day but today! Elbert hadn’t planned on riding, but because of this sudden vacancy, he was obligated to ride hard for the next 5 hours.
By the end of the bouncy ride, Elbert experienced disconcerting symptoms that,- long story short, cued us to take him to a hospital. After a sonogram we discovered that he had a cancerous tumor in his bladder that required immediate surgery. So, here’s the crux of the story,- IF the cowboy hadn’t quit at this crucial time, THEN Elbert wouldn’t have known he had cancer. He eventually would have discovered it, but by that time it would have grown much bigger and could have been deadly. What seemed like a frustrating negative event was actually a godsend for us.
Turns out, that this is a common formula in our lives. IF certain painful or challenging things happen, (and we learn what they are designed to teach us), THEN the reward will come.
From Tragedy to Destiny
In 1985, my friends Rex Lowe and his wife Pat, were driving down the road near a South African township and were slowing down for the stoplight. They saw scores of small children who had piles of rocks in front of them, and on cue from an adult, began throwing them at Rex’s car. One young girl picked up a stone as big as Pat’s head and hurled it through the glass door window, smashing the window into a thousand pieces, knocking her unconscious. She was bleeding profusely. Rex raced to get them out of that very dangerous neighborhood and on to the hospital. Pat was revived, but doctors spent many hours plucking glass shards out of her skull.
Some months later, Rex, who was a contractor, went to a Lion’s club meeting where they were discussing a request from city council to build an orphanage. He was asked whether his company could help out. Rex readily agreed, but when he visited the site selected for the orphanage, he realized this was the VERY SPOT where he and Pat had been so savagely attacked only a few months before.
He reeled emotionally and initially hesitated, but then realized that the Lord was trying to give him an opportunity to stretch, and he agreed to do the project. He and Pat decided that a meaningful way of forgiving those children was to donate Rex’s work at NO COST with the desire and prayer that some good would come of it.
The orphanage is still there and has accommodated five orphans every year since then, but the most value was the increase and growth of Pat and Rex. It was something bad that turned into a great blessing for them and for the orphans.[i]
Forcing Us to Higher Levels?
I love a quote by C. S. Lewis who profoundly observed,
“When troubles come along – illness, money troubles, new kinds of temptation – [man] is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on up to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet got the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.” [ii]
Isn’t that beautiful? So, not just in spite of adversity but BECAUSE of adversity, (as we turn to God), good things will ultimately happen to help us make our greatest strides forward. Our destiny is often linked to how we handle our experience.
From Dysfunctional Upbringing to Empathy and Service
I have a beautiful friend who was raised in a very dysfunctional family and was repeatedly abused as a child and teenager. Her life was filled with self-loathing and self-abuse because of it. She eventually married and had children but continued in her self-abuse and other addictions. Finally, in her 50’s she got to a point where she whole heartedly wanted to change. She repented of what she could repent of, and began the difficult, long process of recovery from addiction. BECAUSE of what she learned through this extensive process, she is now a beacon of hope to hundreds of people now encouraging them in one-on-one conversations as well as using a website where she encourages and supports others. Her “curse” has become a blessing to many.[iii]
When we can look for meaning in our trials, we begin to learn the reasons why we may have been allowed or placed in a given circumstance.
Exile turned into World Icon
When the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of Tibet was only 16, the Chinese military invaded and occupied. After only a few years he was forced to flee from his beloved Tibet as monasteries and thousands of volumes written by Tibetans themselves were burned. It was excruciating for him, knowing that the intent of the Chinese was to erase his culture. He was forced into exile in 1959, leaving behind thousands of his people, and he was powerless to stop it.
As heartbreaking as it was, he later admits that being outcast from his country turned out to be a blessing for him personally. He said,
“For every event in life, there are many different angles. When you look at the same event from a wider perspective, your sense of worry and anxiety reduces, and you have greater joy… So therefore, if you look from one angle, you feel, Oh, how bad, how sad. But if you look from another angle at that same tragedy, that same event, you see that it gives you new opportunities.”[iv]
Because of what he learned, the Dalai Lama has become a symbol for peace, hope and joy to billions.
Who Would You Be?
Think back to a time of suffering in your own life. Reflect on all the good that came of it. Who would you be WITHOUT that experience? Would you really want to erase all the growth and clarity that you achieved because of that trial?
What are you going through right now?
What is the Lord making of you? What traits are you gaining? More Faith? More patience? Are you being prepared for something? If you’re in a hard place, consider that something spectacular may be just around the corner that you are being especially groomed for.
We often wonder why bad things happen. On a grand scale, this may exactly be the misfortune, trial, or catastrophe we need to give us experience and wisdom in order to do what we were born to do; Or on a small scale it may simply be the tender mercy to discover the next step we should take. Whichever way it is, IF we look at our trials this way, THEN we will be blessed, and so will many others.
You can Contact Anne Pratt at [email protected].
[i] Rex Lowe, personal correspondence. Story used with permission.
[ii] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 174.
[iii] Name withheld, personal correspondence. Story used with permission.
[iv] Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy, p. 194-195.