Trials and Suffering, Oh my!

 Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. (Helen Keller)

We might desire all of life to be ease and quiet, but then we are living with unreasonable expectations. Jesus said, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We will have many trials - not just a few. We may not face all of them with strength, but we can learn strength in the midst of them. It is important to remember there is no temptation 'unique' to any man - we all have faced a similar temptation at one time or another. What we might find 'unique' is that we all learn different things from trials that are quite similar. Why? God is developing some strength within us that will not only benefit ourselves, but will be a means of helping another develop strength, too.

Character is something developed when the mind learns to be at peace and the heart learns to be at rest. We don't learn this in the absence of trials - we learn it in the midst of them. Our character is a way of describing those unique qualities that set us apart from another, but it is also important to note that Jesus wanted us to take on his character. We are to develop in a loving servant's heart - taking the truth he gives to each of us and using what we have learned to influence this world and to encourage one another as we face life's challenges. Have all the lessons I have learned in this lifetime always come from good, God-fearing believers? Not hardly! Some of the best lessons I have learned have been from those who have failed miserably - their failure leaving a life-long influence in my life making me determined not to follow in their footsteps. 

We all want to be defined as men or women of 'good character', but we don't always make the choices that exhibit the best of moral or ethical standards, do we? Sometimes we just get a little too selfish or stubborn and go our own way. When we do, our 'character' may become a little 'tarnished', but take heart - Jesus stands at the ready to help bring beauty where only ashes remain. As others see how God can take even our worst failures and turn them into lessons that develop good character in us, they will be encouraged. Why? They might just come to the conclusion that God can do something similar in their lives, helping them put behind the things that didn't produce the best of character and move toward the things that will. Just sayin!

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