My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. —James 1:2-3 NKJV
To often we whine about challenges in our lives; we complain when things get difficult. Yet the difficult things of life are the very things that provide us with two very important opportunities: (1) to see ourselves as we really are (through our responses) and (2) to reflect on our situations and to grow through them.
Scott Peck recognized this idea in his book, The Road Less Traveled. He begins the book with the statement, “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” Wrap your mind around that! Well, perhaps it’s not only “no longer,” yet the point should be well taken. Understanding that life is difficult helps us with our unrealistic expectations—we too often think that everything should go as we think it should go. (We are so self-centered.)
Ellen White has many statements regarding trials. Here is one of my favorites.
The trials of life are God’s workmen to remove the impurities, infirmities, and roughness from our characters, and fit them for the society of pure, heavenly angels in glory.
Until heaven, we won’t be able to see the clearer picture of how the events of our lives have truly affected us and how important the challenges have been in our preparation for a life without significant challenges—heaven.
I used to think that once we were in heaven (or in the twinkling of an eye) God would take away all of the negative parts of my character. But as I’ve thought about it, that way of thinking really doesn’t make much sense. As with muscles, so the character. And we also know when we get to heaven there will be no more tears and no more sorrow; our trials in heaven will be quite different than the challenges here. It appears that heaven is not designed to be a place of deep character growth and that’s one big reason we are on this earth—to grow character.
Let me close with a substantial quote from Ellen White that brings me to self-reflection. It leads me to question my natural thoughts. Yet, at the same time, it is also empowering and helps me find a reason beyond myself for making changes—for my children.
In heaven there is perfect order, perfect obedience, perfect peace and harmony. Those who have had no respect for order or discipline in this life would have no respect for the order which is observed in heaven. They can never be admitted into heaven, for all worthy of an entrance there will love order and respect discipline. The characters formed in this life will determine the future destiny. When Christ shall come, He will not change the character of any individual. Precious, probationary time is given to be improved in washing our robes of character and making them white in the blood of the Lamb. To remove the stains of sin requires the work of a lifetime. Every day renewed efforts in restraining and denying self are needed. Every day there are new battles to fight and victories to be gained. Every day the soul should be called out in earnest pleading with God for the mighty victories of the cross. Parents should neglect no duty on their part to benefit their children. They should so train them that they may be a blessing to society here and may reap the reward of eternal life hereafter.
May God bless you on your journey.