[Note from the Proprietor: This is an entry for this month's What I Learned From... groupwrite project. We'd love to have you join us! See the bottom of this post for details - after, y'know, you read this post, of course! Just sayin'.]
Have you ever wondered what was the point of adversity – y’know, trials and troubles? I know I used to.
I mean, it ranked right up there with the other Questions of the Ages. Important questions, like: Why do we face adversity? Why do the righteous have to suffer? Why do we fall in love? Why was it that, no matter how hard he tried, the Coyote could never catch that stupid Roadrunner?
But I found out that, when it came to adversity, I was completely missing the point. And I finally got to share that with someone.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive… Uh, What, Exactly?
Back when I was in my early twenties (insert respectful moment of silence here in memory of my *sigh* lost youth), I belonged to a fairly small church near my home in northwest Houston. Now, if you’ve ever been a young single person in a very small church, you’ll understand the dilemma.
See, the problem was, there usually aren’t all that many singles in a small church. As a matter of fact, in our case there were exactly, uh, two. Unfortunately, there were inherent problems with that basic fact, to wit: she was a woman of the female persuasion. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the fairer sex, mind you! No, it’s just that her parents kept tryin’ to, well, nudge us towards gettin’ hitched – something neither of us were ready for yet! But I digress.)
Anyway, one day a young single man decided to join our little fellowship. I thought to myself, Halleluiah, someone to “take the heat off”, if you follow me. And as luck would have it, we kinda hit it off in relatively short order.
I’m tellin’ ya; he was one sharp cookie, too. He worked as a foreman at a large oil tool company – in fact, at 24, he was the youngest one they’d ever hired. And with me bein’ in the engineering field as well, we could easily talk shop with each other.
One fine spring Saturday, we had volunteered to help repaint the covered walkways linking the buildings at the church. Right in the middle of a brushstroke, he suddenly stopped working, looked at me, and blurted out, “Man, I’ve got a real problem!”
Now, this came as no surprise; I could tell he’d had something on his mind. But you know how it is, right? I figured he was either gonna tell me – or not. So I just waited.
“The problem,” he said miserably, “is that nothing’s going right at the plant!”
This kinda startled me, so naturally I asked, “What do you mean by that? Are you worried about your job?”
“Oh, no, not that,” he quickly reassured me. We decided to take a break and moseyed over to the soda machine. (Although he’d just moved to Texas, he was already startin’ to pick up the finer points of moseyin’. Told you he was sharp!)
Several quarters later, he continued. “It’s stuff like… well, I’ve got automatic cutting machines breaking down all over the place, my work schedule is totally bonkers, and I can’t seem to get the programmers to understand why they can’t just do whatever they want!”
I could tell he was pretty frustrated about it. But the kicker came when he said this final statement:
“I mean, I’ve been praying like crazy, asking God for patience – but it seems like it’s not working!” By now he was really upset. “Instead of help, all I’m getting are more problems!”
Up the Creek
Trust me; I’ve been there.
But y’know; sometimes I wonder how many of y’all out there feel like you’re in exactly the same boat. How many times have you done everything you possibly could to make things go just right – whatever things they might happen to be – and next thing you know, you’re up the creek with a paddle – but without a canoe?
Isn’t that the way it is sometimes? You spend a lot of extra time and effort in making sure every ‘t’ is crossed, and every ‘i’ gets that little dot… and yet… and yet. I think you can fill in that blank, can’t ya?
Well, it just so happened I couldn’t offer him any help. At least, not directly. But Â I did recall an interesting thing one of my favorite writers, the Apostle James, wrote one time, and it’s always, well, not exactly solved my problem, but at least it’s helped me understand what the deal was, if you get my meanin’.
Here’s what ol’ James had to say (if you have a Bible handy, you’ll find it in verses 2 through 4 of Chapter 1):
My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything.
Now, if I’m readin’ this right – and I think I am – it seems like James is telling me to be happy when troubles come my way. After all, there’s a reason for them – to learn to endure. And, even further, he says it will help us to become mature.
Hey, if you’re like me (and sincere condolences if that is, indeed, the case!), then you probably zeroed in on that fourth word like a laser beam: glad. Uh, say what? Is he kidding?
I’ll be honest with you here. My near automatic impulse when troubles come a-knockin’ at my door is more like Run! Run for your life! I mean, who in their right mind thinks, y’know, glad of all the things going wrong around ‘em?
The Trouble With Trouble
But therein, I believe, lies the nub of the gist, not to mention begging the question: Can you ever get to the point where you can learn to, y’know, laugh in the face of adversity?
See, the thing James is rather delicately pointing out (well, OK; he’s stating it in no uncertain terms) is that there is a purpose for all that mayhem that seems to be following you around. And it’s to help you grow as a person – and eventually, to become a complete one at that!
The basic problem, though, is pretty simple: most of us like things just the way they are! We’d just as soon not face a challenge of any kind, thank you very much. We’re in our comfort zone, and that’s where we like things to be, y’know?
C’mon; admit it – wouldn’t you rather not go to the trouble of having to completely change everything you know for something new? Isn’t it true that every learning experience has its measure of “tearing things down” to go through first? Sure it is!
That’s why most of us get frustrated when life throws us a curve ball every now and then. Or when machines out on the shop floor start breaking down for no apparent reason, no matter how well you’ve planned the maintenance schedule…
But here’s the thing.
When stuff doesn’t happen according to plan, well, that’s when you learn – and grow. It may seem obvious, but how many times have you found yourself in the same boat, wondering, as my friend did, why on Earth this (fill in the blank here) was happening to you? Hey, don’t feel like the Lone Stranger – we all do it.
BUT (and you’ll note – that’s a mighty BIG ‘but’ – wow, I’m so happy I have a post to go with that expression now!) once you worked your way through it, didn’t you realize a sense of accomplishment? Weren’t you in some small way (or big way, for that matter) glad at the outcome? Wasn’t it a wonderful feeling when you took that truckload of lemons life unloaded on you, and turned it into a huge shipment of Lemon Pledge – making a killing on the market?
Guess my buddy James was on to something.
Anyway, after I shared that little tidbit with my disheartened friend, he looked up at me in astonishment, his eyes wide. “You mean all this time, every time I’ve been praying for patience, I’ve actually been praying for trials?”
I put a friendly arm around his shoulders as we walked back to the painting equipment and took up our paintbrushes.
“Yup,” was about all I could say. “That’s about the size of it, Bubba!”
It Comes Down to This
How do you face troubles? Do you forge ahead, savoring the challenge? (Believe it or not, there actually ARE folks like that. Go figure.) Or are you more like me: I usually grumble a bit at first, then work my way through it, maybe even finally laugh (and now that I’m blogging, perhaps write) about it afterwards.
Hey, don’t be shy. I know you are well and truly all kinds of folks out there – along with all your great experiences. Share some tips, why don’cha? Trust me; we can all use ‘em!
[As I pointed out 'waaaay up there at the top, this here post is my entry for our What I Learned From... groupwrite project. The topic this month is ADVERSITY, and if you've got a lesson learned on that particular subject, hey, why don't you join the fun? You might even win a free copy of Problogger for your trouble! Just click on that link and read all about it. You have until Sunday night at midnight to get your entry in.]
I got trouble, by ndemi
How to laugh in the face of adversity, by true2source