The Gift of Struggle

by Ricky Chelette, Executive Director

Have you ever thanked God for your struggle? I know, it sounds a bit odd. It’s not that I like my struggle. I’m not a masochist or anything similar; I have a pretty high aversion to pain of any kind, but particularly emotional pain. I try to keep it at bay. At times, I have even sought to medicate it so that I am no longer aware of its presence. But I have discovered it only prolongs the inevitable, and I eventually have to deal with my discomfort.

For years I was angry with God that I had a struggle at all (I don’t know why I thought I could be exempt from life’s readily observable reality of Adamic sin) and was perplexed that a loving God would allow such turmoil, hurt, and trauma in a person’s life.

But one day, something changed. I was reading Romans 5 and the words seemed to leap off the page and into my anger and doubts about God.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5).

For the joy set before Him…

Wait a minute. The Word of God is telling me that I need to be rejoicing in my suffering. Who does that?
Jesus. He endured the cross because of the joy set before Him (Heb 12:2).

As I pondered this truth, I realized that God could undoubtedly eradicate all our struggles, but He doesn’t. Wouldn’t that be the “loving” thing to do? I don’t believe it would. Look carefully at Romans 5:3 again. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.”

For you and me to develop endurance, we have to go through struggles. When we go through hardships and trials, we find God is enough. When we are tested, we discover our resolve and commitment. When we face pleasurable temptations and choose to stand in faith, we learn obedience is sweeter than sin.

Not only does struggle produce endurance but practiced endurance produces character (Rom 5:3). Character is that intangible quality that allows a man or woman to live out their beliefs without compromise or contradiction. It is the secret sauce that makes good people outstanding and transforms ordinary people into extraordinary people.

We can conquer shame…

But there is still more to this odd gift of struggle. God promises that character, when developed, produces hope. But not merely a “wishful thinking” kind of hope, but hope that eradicates one of the most prominent thought traps the devil sets for Christians – shame! Shame is that ever-present feeling that I am inherently unredeemable. So many of the people I talk to are burdened by their past sins. They have difficulty believing God could love them, forgive them, and give them a life better than they could hope or imagine. But notice the hope doesn’t put us to shame because we are good, but “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” God is an intentional, loving, creative Father. He allows struggle and suffering because He knows it creates endurance, character, and hope that will transform our wayward hearts.

Yes, life is hard, and we are prone to evil. But God is good, and He is faithful. When we change perspective on our struggles to opportunities for growth, maturity, perseverance, character, and hope, we, like Jesus, can enter each “struggle” with a sense of joy for what lies before us: real change and great hope!