Happy New Year. Here’s a devotion from Lori Hatcher’s new book, Refresh Your Hope, 60 Reasons to Trust God with All Your Heart. She’s one of my favorite authors and her book on hope is excellent.
God Never Wastes Pain
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Seven-year-old me decided it would be exhilarating to ride down the slide standing up. Other kids in the schoolyard had done it, and it looked marvelous. With arms extended and hair flying, I mimicked my classmates’ smooth sail down the slippery piece of playground equipment. Only for me, it wasn’t so slippery. And I didn’t sail.
Unlike the curly-haired girl in her patent leather Mary Janes who’d gone down ahead of me, I hadn’t worn slippery soled shoes. Instead of gliding like a swan on a lake, I tumbled like an armadillo rolling down a hill.
As the ground rose to meet me, I threw out my arms and landed at the bottom in a heap. My breath whooshed from my lungs, leaving me gasping and choking. When I attempted to sit up, pain radiated from my wrist to my elbow. Pinpricks of light flashed before my eyes.
“Go get the teacher,” I tried to say to a girl standing nearby. My lips formed the words, but no sound came out. Eventually my breath returned, and I stumbled to my feet. Cradling my right arm, I walked on shaky legs to the school office.
Soon Dad and I were on our way to the doctor’s office. X-rays confirmed what the orthopedist suspected—clean breaks in two wrist bones.
“I’d like you to wait outside while I set her arm,” he told Dad, nodding toward the door.
Dad smoothed the hair that had fallen over my face and raised my chin until my frightened eyes met his sad ones. “The doctor’s going to fix your arm” he said. “I have to wait outside. When it’s all bandaged up, I’ll be back. Be brave.”
I nodded, suppressing my tears. When the door clicked behind him, the doctor took my hand in his and cradled my elbow.
“The broken bones are out of place, and they won’t get better unless I fix them. I’m going to pull your arm. It’s going to hurt, but it will be over quickly. I promise.”
I nodded again, and the tears that had threatened to fall all afternoon rolled down my cheeks.
Fifty years later, Dad still remembers the scream that echoed down the hallway and into the waiting room. When he mustered the courage to peek into the treatment room, the nurse was applying damp plaster strips to my swollen arm.
I can endure just about any hardship if I know it has a purpose. This is why I cling to Romans 5:3–5 during times of trial: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Paul’s seemingly impossible statement that we can glory in our suffering hinges on the promise that they’re not meaningless. They accomplish purposes and deliver benefits we never imagine in the midst of them.
I’ll be the first to admit I was a spiritual wimp in the early years of my Christian life—as many baby believers are. When the slightest difficulty entered my life, I quaked like an aspen leaf. I whined at hard work. Sacrificial giving, serving, or living held no appeal to me. Like a baby walking on rubbery legs, my spiritual muscles struggled to support me and often sent me tumbling to the ground in a faith crisis heap.
Psalm 34:19 declares: “The righteous person may have many troubles,” and it is true.
Challenging work environments hostile to my faith provided opportunities to “work as unto the Lord.” Maintaining my Christian witness while my boss mocked my beliefs strengthened my spiritual backbone.
I married and learned what commitment meant. Every day became an opportunity to love, honor, and cherish. Sometimes in sickness. Sometimes in health. Sometimes in poverty. Sometimes in wealth.
Parenting provided a workout for my faith. Colic, separation anxiety, and the teenage years taught me to serve when I didn’t feel like serving and give when I didn’t feel like giving. I made decisions my children didn’t like because it was the right thing to do.
Our family experienced grief, sickness, spiritual valleys, ministry challenges, and prodigal children. Each time we pressed on, we developed perseverance. Circumstances that might have caused us to quit in our early lives inspired us to fortify our faith, ask for help, and double down on our prayers. Our character grew and matured, too. Instead of looking for the easiest way out, we found ourselves volunteering for hard things.
Now that my husband and I have walked with the Lord for 40 plus years, we recognize that the times of greatest trial were and are also the times of greatest growth. Hard things press us into God. Hopeless situations humble us. Suffering invites us to examine our lives and root out sin. Afflictions burn the dross from our character and make us more like Christ. As our character deepens, so does our ability to feel hopeful. We no longer doubt God’s love, because the Holy Spirit in our hearts confirms it.
Although we don’t always understand suffering, we can rest in hope, knowing it’s not purposeless. It will accomplish God’s good work in our lives.
From the Heart
Oh, Father, what a comfort to know my suffering isn’t random. You have a good purpose for everything that filters through your fingers. When my heart aches and my faith trembles, remind me that you are trustworthy and good. Help me look back at the hard times and see how you used them to grow my faith and mature my character. Instead of chafing against trials, help me embrace them in hope. Use them to make me more like Jesus. Amen.
About the Author
Lori Hatcher is an author, blogger, pastor’s wife, and women’s ministry speaker. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including Our Daily Bread, Guideposts, Revive Our Hearts, and Crosswalk.com. A contest-winning Toastmasters International speaker, Lori uses high-impact stories to impart transformational truth. Find out more about Lori and her well-loved 5-minute devotions at LoriHatcher.com.
This devotion is an excerpt from the book, Refresh Your Hope, 60 Reasons to Trust God with All Your Heart and is used with permission. Requests for permission to quote this book should be directed to: Permissions Department, Our Daily Bread Publishing, PO Box 3566, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, or contact by email at firstname.lastname@example.org