March 13, 2009
It's Good for Your Character
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Entertainment Editor
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:3-5, NIV
I grew up in a very special church back in the '70s and '80s. It was nondenominational, had tremendous traditional worship and congregational singing, and was attended by many seminary professors and students.
Seeds that were sown in my life in those early years of my spiritual growth are now sprouting, and I'm drawing upon what I have learned as I make my way through adulthood.
From time to time, I flip through a bound collection of meditations or sayings that my pastor put together. He would regularly refer to these life principles from the pulpit, and today, whenever I hear them (or similar concepts) being said by others, I remember what he preached on them many years ago.
"It's good for your character," he would often say. And here's how he explained that further:
"God uses the routine, the difficult, even the painful to develop in us qualities of Christlike character that can be learned in no other way."
When we begin to see our lives from this perspective, that's when we've turned a corner. But in order to keep thinking in this way, we have to make daily readjustments, as we don't always want to see the routine, the difficult and even the painful in this way.
But it is the right way to look at any uncomfortable situation in our lives. The classic passage regarding trials in James 1:2-4 is wonderfully helpful and instructive:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Let's break down this outlook:
Consider it pure joy. How do you do this when you're going through a divorce? Or in the aftermath of a departed loved one or the loss of a job? What will it take to see the joy despite the circumstances? Only God can give us this joy and change our perspective.
Testing develops perseverance. In order to learn how to persevere, we have to go through some trying times. Think back on the trials in your life. What were the results? Did you make changes in your life? Did God help you get through them? Remember that as you continue to serve him.
Perseverance must finish its work. We can't go from diapers to dungarees in the snap of a fingers. Living takes time. And there are "pains" that go with it. Sure, it hurts sometimes, but know that the uncomfortable seasons mean that you're growing.
Be mature and complete. When you were a child, you didn't have a bulging file folder of life experiences to draw from. Now that you're older, hopefully you can see how you have grown closer to the Lord and how he has changed you. Draw from past lessons as you choose to live and think differently today.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Can you look back on "the routine, the difficult, even the painful" times of your life and see how God has developed your character? List some specific trials and the resulting changes that have been made in your character and praise your merciful Savior.