Day #23

James 1:2-3

I grew up in a measure of privilege. We weren’t rich, but we were comfortable. I never feared poverty. Then seasons of life brought me to the other side of the tracks. I came to understand scarcity and fear of want. Anxiety washed over me when bills arrived. I even at times could barely purchase food. 

I actually thank God for this. As much as poverty is unpleasant, it taught me things I could never have learned from material security. It taught me work ethic. It taught me frugality. It taught me trust. And even more than what it taught me, it brought me somewhere new. It brought me to compassion. It brought me to empathy for the poor. It brought me to an awareness of what most of the world feels every day. I can’t thank God enough for poverty. 

On one very bad day when many things were going wrong, a friend began to sing a little song about smiling through trials. I felt like punching her. No one enjoys trials in the moment. But we can learn to rise above them when we adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset says, “The most important thing is not my pleasure, prosperity, or temporal happiness, but my growth in Jesus.” Set success on earth as the ultimate goal, and we will be disappointed. It’s guaranteed. Everyone eventually dies and loses it all. Set our growth in Jesus as the ultimate goal, we will never be disappointed. Never. Because God promises growth regardless of what comes.

Scan your memory for trying experiences that yielded growth of character? Bring one particular time to mind. What did you learn? How did you grow? Think on that for a moment, and thank God out loud for it. 

Dear God, teach us to count it all joy when we fall into trials. No matter what we do, we will not be able to make our lives trial-free. So teach us to accept what we cannot change, gleaning all the good we can from misfortunes and difficulties. Thank you for recycling and reframing these trials such that we can rise above them. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

 “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

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.

56 thoughts on “Day #23

  1. Karen

    I had a bad experience and it produced empathy towards those in depression. What happened was, I had surgery and a subsequent reaction to the pain meds which ultimately had to be discontinued. So for 3 straight days I was in excruciating physical pain.
    So much so that I went into a mental depression. Everything was grey, impossible to feel joy. As the pain lessened and I slowly healed, so did the depression and my joy returned.
    I actually can’t remember the name of the surgeon, I think my mind had blocked it, maybe a tad bit of PTSD.
    The experience produced empathy towards those suffering from depression.
    I have been able to help family and friends with depression because I ‘had been there’.
    God does not waste even one tear.

    Reply
  2. Megan

    It’s hard for me to isolate one particular difficult time, as the past several years have been a continuous trial, mostly. Yet, one incident comes to mind.

    For those who have a healthy social life, this might sound petty, but a difficult time for me was when a trusted friend unfollowed a social media account of mine. (Keep in mind, due to circumstances, SM was my only ‘social’ life, my only outlet… and a place where I had always endeavoured to be real.) I believed I had lost a friend. No warning was given, and it wasn’t an accidental unfollow. Ouch.

    I grew a lot through that.

    The lesson: my value isn’t tied up in what other people think, whether they are friend or foe. Jesus truly sees my value, and that’s the most important thing. In Him, I’m free to be me, and not everyone has to like who that is. Hallelujah. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Valerie

    I would have to say last year and a few months before that, in many ways combined, was some of the most difficult for me. One big part of that was being sick and injured for months. I’ve always had fairly good health, and though I’ve sometimes hurt myself, it’s never been this constant for such a long period. So I’ve never really “had” to trust God with my health before. That is something I really learned last year, and I am thankful to know Him better as my Physician.

    Reply
  4. Daniel Parsons

    Tell us about one specific difficult experience and the growth it produced in you.

    Adapting to a whole new culture and having to go through quarantine lock down here in Chile. My wife is Chilean and said there are not enough hospital beds for sick people so that is why the lock down is going on even though we are in the middle of the South American summer.

    I miss my freedom. I have had to give all of my mental anguish over to the Lord Jesus and realize that this situation is just temporary. It has been a humbling experience for me as I am used to being able to go where I want when I want

    I also have learned that I need to be on my best behavior because I may be the only Christian someone sees.

    Reply
  5. Shirley Mann

    This is another hard one. I have had quite a few experiences that at that time seemed difficult. For most of them everything turned out all right in the end. However – have I grown from them? Probably but it is hard for me to say exactly how. The one I will mention is the last 8-10 months of my husband’s life. We had asked the doctor how long my husband could expect to live and the answer was less than one year. Knowing that the loss was coming probably helped me and maybe even my husband. He actually asked the man who had the funeral service if he would do it about four months before he died. I really did not know what to pray for so I just prayed that God’s will would be done, so maybe the growth was being more accepting of God’s will and not mine in my life.

    Reply
  6. Sarah

    I keep going back to this because it so changed my life. Abuse and all the fallout from that is the most difficult thing I have experience in my life. I know God doesn’t want His children to suffer, but He gives free will, and some people use that free will to abuse others. Still He can take the shattered lives of those who have experienced abuse and create something beautiful for His kingdom if we choose to let Him do so. Before my encounter with abuse, no one in my family had experienced it and we had no idea how people suffer because of it. Now that I understand what it is like, it helps me recognize and believe others who are also experiencing it. It gives me the ability to feel others’ pain I wouldn’t have understood without my experience. It has been a warning to me, showing how degraded we can become if we choose, step-by-step, to ignore the Holy Spirit. It fills me with a repulsion for sin and a desire to filled with God’s love for each person He puts in my life.

    Reply
  7. Jane

    One specific “difficult experience” was one that lasted through most of grade school, high school and into college. It was “math!” I struggled all along the way, but it came to a head when I sat down in an “Elementary Methods of Math” class in college that was meant to prepare me to teach math. I took one look at the “pre-test” that the teacher gave to us and knew I didn’t have a clue how to do most of it, even though I had gotten through previous math classes with fairly decent grades. Regarding my Algebra class in high school, I would tell people, “I got an ‘A,’ but I never understood a bit of it.” I just did what they told me to do and only cared about getting a good grade. My college teacher was gracious, took my unfinished test, and asked me to meet him in his office after class. He proceeded to attempt to teach me, but, once again, I really didn’t understand and did whatever I could just to get done with the class and get a decent grade. Then, when I was about to begin teaching 6th grade math in my first classroom, I knew I was in BIG trouble. I didn’t know what to do. Thankfully God provided my own personal tutor for the entire year, my dear brother who only lived an hour away. Every weekend he would faithfully teach me what I needed to know to stay one step ahead of my students. In the end, I believe I actually became better at teaching math than some of my other subjects because I had to struggle so much to understand it myself that it made it easier for me to be on their level and teach it in a way that was understandable to them. Praise God for how He can turn our weaknesses into strengths. And, just to show how much God has a sense of humor, I’m teaching Algebra (with the help of the video teacher) for the second time as I’m now homeschooling my second daughter through this subject. Trinomials, anyone? 😉 Sometimes God just doesn’t let up as He provides “opportunities” for us to continue to grow through difficult experiences!

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Schwirzer

      “In the end, I believe I actually became better at teaching math than some of my other subjects because I had to struggle so much to understand it myself that it made it easier for me to be on their level and teach it in a way that was understandable to them.” This is why geniuses are sometimes poor teachers.

      Reply
    2. Tara

      As a trained elementary teacher with an emphasis in math, I can’t love this enough. So proud of you for struggling through it! I’m positive that has made you a wonderful math teacher! Enjoy the trinomials! 😉

      Reply
  8. Sharon

    This is a difficult one for me, as it has been recent enough that the memories are still very raw and painful. 5 1/2 years prior to my mom’s death, she had a major stroke, which resulted in a massive shift in her personality and ability to cope and tolerate unpleasant events or circumstances. I was her sole caregiver from the day she came home from inpatient treatment until the day she died. Those were very brutal years for me, because she pushed everyone else away, and took everything out on me – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Psychologically, it was like being forced to take bitter, caustic poison on a near daily basis. I’m still in the process of healing. But one thing I have learned is that, with rare exception, I have no idea why another person is treating me the way they do. And when I do have some idea, I still don’t fully know why. This has helped me to be less judgmental, especially in situations where I don’t know those involved well. And I’m realizing just how important it is that God does know everything, and never makes a mistake, and that is one reason why He can be trusted.

    Reply
  9. Nicky Dube

    One difficult situation I had was a very unstable roommate while I was doing ministry. She had an angry outburst in the car I was riding in when her ministry partner told her she couldn’t wait until late evening to get back to where we stayed. In those moments I feared for my life as I had previously gotten into a car accident when someone was screaming at me. From that point I didn’t even want to look this individual in the eye nor speak to her. I realized then that I did not do well with conflict and I didn’t know how to set and govern healthy boundaries. Over the next few months I went through a painful growth process and with the help of a counselor learned it was ok to say no to someone who made me feel unsafe even when they tried to make me feel bad about my decisions. I learned that rather than avoiding communication or conflict with a difficult person, I could face the situation with strong boundaries and not give in to manipulation just because I felt bad. I learned that boundaries were biblical and that if God had them, I could too.

    Reply
  10. Kristina

    There are several but the main big one was going through breast cancer. I had to work through despair and depression to find hope and joy in the midst of it by the grace and power of God. I learned I can praise Him even in the darkest time and that He is there for me and He can be trusted. All this grew me closer to Jesus and helped me to see that the Bible promises are true.

    Reply
  11. cree

    My early years as an immigrant turned out to be tougher than i expected. Studying + working in different odd jobs throughout the week + adjusting to a culture that is in the opposite side of the globe. Missing family, close friends, holidays and the convenience then… it was basically starting a new life + trying to navigate each day with uncertainty for the next.

    I was so far from my comfort zone. In retrospect, I realized that God was there the whole time taking care of me. He helped me through that challenging period — i’m very sure I would’ve given up if not for His grace. I thank Him for helping me learn perseverance, patience and humility. He also taught me how to be more responsible. Most of all, it taught me that I N-E-E-D Him in my life. Little did I know, that was just the beginning of my journey towards accepting Him as my Saviour : )

    Reply
  12. Mel

    COVID has really led me to see that I felt like life and everything were under my control. When everything changed, I was forced to do a job that I didn’t sign up for, family had very serious interpersonal issues with each other that they tried to have me sort out, church members were attacking each other in cruel ways….everything was out of control….but God used it, to bring me to the point where I realized that I trusted too much in myself, and not in His guidance in my life and in the lives of those around me! Even when both my husband and I faced job loss at the same time, we were able to trust God to take care of us – where in the past I would have just been angry about the future potential struggles we would have. God has taken care of us through all this and we are so thankful to trust Him rather than have to figure out this complicated life!

    Reply
  13. Cheryl

    There are so many difficult experiences in my life. I can’t seem to see most of them clearly. I thought at times I had grown until things really got out of control in most areas of my life.

    I think I have been trying to do everything in my own strength and fight for myself. I’m trying to let go and let God fight for me. To rest in Him and His love for me. I hope this will help me be more understanding of others who struggle.

    Reply
  14. Katrina

    Hi Everyone
    My Mom came from a broken home. She and my Dad married young and separated young, just barely together long enough to have 3 children. My mom was physically, abusive to me and my brothers. Which affected my mental, emotional, and spiritual well being. BUT God knew me and provided for me. Starting in an adventist foster home He put people in my life, lots of people to help me at each step. I’ve learned of God’s amazing love for me which has enabled me to forgive my mom and dad. I’m in contact with them both. I believe God wants me to be a light to them of His love for them. God still puts people in my life to help me through. Thank you Jennifer and to many others!
    God is so good!
    Peace

    Reply
  15. Jodi

    I am usually thankful for the trials after the resolution as I can see the growth or the “skin” toughening that has occured. I feel a measure of guilt for not being grateful in the midst of the trial. We’ve all been through different trials with varying degrees of difficulty. My husband would say that giving birth naturally and unmedicated has grown me. Then there’s the reward of motherhood that has stretched and pulled me into an exhausted heap at the of the day. Having been a pastor’s wife has most definitely not been without challenges and trials, nor the autoimmune illness that follows me around every day. Funny thing is, is that I think back of the trials (non-traunatic) of my childhood and I want my kids to appreciate trial and challenge too. I was excited, for my kids sake, that our current housing situation does not have heat apart from the wood we stack to burn in our fireplace. A simple challenge, but a profound opportunity. Austerity builds character, trial produces patience, fire refines gold. Praise the Lord.

    Reply
  16. Mary

    2018 was the year we learned how to surrender and truly live day by day in faith that God is faithful and His promises are everlasting. It was through our 6 year olds cancer diagnosis and treatment that my husband and I learned to only focus on the day and not stress or worry about the days to come. We saw how God, in perfect timing, again and again provided and answered prayers. Worrying and trying to figure stuff out on our own would have only increased our already taxed mental health state. Our son is now 9 years old, cancer free and doing amazingly well. God is faithful.

    Reply
  17. Ann

    Twenty some years ago I went through a painful divorce. This morning God spoke to my heart and told me if there had not been the divorce, then the beautiful friendship with an elderly couple would never have happened. They nurtured me and helped pull me out of a pit. They became my adopted parents. Their oldest daughter still calls me sis.

    Reply
  18. Amy

    I know that I have grown in many ways through difficult experiences. Through having an out-of-the-box kid, I am learning so much about empathy and diversity and resilience. There are days when it is exhausting but I know in the future I will see the rewards in the lives of our entire family.

    Reply
  19. Vanessa

    I’m growing in my career and am responsible for keeping accurate records for my program and the stakeholders I report to. One time, I missed the mark and felt so embarrassed and ashamed. I wanted to dig myself into a hole but, over time, I had to remind myself that this error was allowed to happen for my good – to always practice diligence, keep good business practices, etc. It didn’t feel good in the moment, but it sure helped grow my character.

    Reply
  20. Sabrina

    A few years ago, my family went through a crisis in which it felt as though my family fell apart and I was left with no support system. Up to that point, I felt that I’d come from a very functional family, but God used that experience to reveal my own brokenness to me and help me to empathize with those who have been raised in dysfunctional families.

    Reply
  21. Jeannie Windels

    There are some deeply troubling, very evil things, that have happened to our family. So far I’m not sure if I’ll ever come to the place where I will thank God for what happened, but I can already thank Him for the growth that has happened as a result of the evil.

    Reply
  22. Tara

    I used to be super judgmental of others; I was a raging legalist. I often shook my head in disbelief at the choices and actions of others. I would say, “I would never do [fill in the blank].” It’s not sustainable. Slowly, almost undetectably at first, I started down a slippery slope all of my own volition. Six months later, I walked away from God, my church, my mission, and my marriage. It took three years for me to be willing to let God pull me out of my self-constructed pit. As He revealed His true character to me, I became more empathetic than I had ever been previously. It completely changed the way I look at others. Now I work with kids who have experienced trauma and abuse. While some of our former students are making less-than-wise choices that leave us frustrated and disappointed, I never, EVER say “I would never do that.” Because I know that but for the grace of God, there go I. We keep praying for them, loving them, holding them accountable as we are able. I am confident that God did not will my own fall, but He has absolutely used it for His honor and glory. And for that, I am thankful.

    Reply
  23. Ericka

    every year for nearly 17 years that we’ve been married, my husband is laid off spring and fall. we never really get ahead of ourselves either because of bad planning, but also because we’re always just barely caught up from the last time off when the next one quickly arrives. someday we’ll figure it out but for now we have definitely learned that even when it looks bad, God finds a way. we dont really deserve it, but somehow things dont ever get too bad. its easier now to see those times come and go, but we still guilt and shame ourselves for not having it together enough to plan ahead. still, we see and know that God is the only reason we get thru it.. and He will do it again.

    Reply
  24. Nowelle

    Same as you, living on less. At one point, the cupboards were bare and we had to wait three more days until payday. I prayed about the situation with our two toddler children, and later that day, God answered. A man I had never met showed up at our door with a huge burlap sack full of potatoes and other vegetables from his garden.
    My husband told me later that he had met the neighbor while he was fishing the previous week or so, and the guy said he was going to bring over some garden bounty sometime.
    I learned to trust God through those hard times and rely on His providential timing.

    Reply
  25. Erin D

    Ive struggled with my health most of my life, but the past several years it’s gotten so much worse. After multiple surgeries, chronic pain and other disabilities have become my new existence. Very few people understand what you’re going through or even try to. This experience has drawn me closer than ever into relationship with Christ. He is my strength and keeps me going. It’s made me look into suffering in the Bible and helped me to gain a deeper understanding of what it truly means to suffer with Christ. A book God in Pain by David Asscherick helped me to understand my pain is so small in comparison to the pain Jesus experienced, that He can understand my pain and wants to comfort me in it. Also the immense amount of pain God experiences all the time watching His creation suffer.
    my pain and struggle also equips me to be a better support to others in their pain and also to be a better witness for Christ.

    Reply
      1. Erin D

        Oh how fun! God delivered that book to me through a friend. I had been wanting to read it and she didn’t even know! God is amazing!

        Reply
  26. Nowelle

    Heres a simple physical trial. Twins=double the blessing and double the trials. Trying to carry two babies at the same time with toddlers underfoot is no small task. Our twins were over 7 pounds apiece at birth, so from the day of delivery, my arms were tested. As the months went by and the babies grew, so did my arms. I remember one time, after holding them for about 45 minutes straight, I could hardly move my arms after placing them down because the muscles hurt so bad. Today, my arms are very strong (not trying to boast), thanks to the trials that came with carrying twins.
    Our hearts are like that too. Sometimes we go through such hard enduring heart-trials that when it’s finally over, it’s like we can’t “move our heart” because the muscle hurts so bad. As we let Jesus grow us, our heart muscles will grow too. Eventually our stronger hearts will be strong enough to carry heavier loads to help others.

    Reply

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