I heard someone recently joke that we are now in Season 3 of the pandemic and wow, doesn’t that feel ridiculously accurate? It’s understandable that so many of us feel worn down, weak, fed up and discouraged. But there are also other “seasons” we’re caught up in—whether with struggling relationships, being out of work, a sick child, etc.—and I think we sometimes forget what it feels like to just not be . . . well, exhausted. The other day, my pastor said, “Many of us are limping into 2022,” and I thought to myself Yep, that about describes it.
Yet I’m also constantly reminded that it’s when we feel most discouraged and worn down, that God most wants us to have hope! As Romans 5:3-4 puts it, we can “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
As we continue moving forward in this “Season 3” of ours—or whatever season you find yourself in—let’s anticipate the ways God will use these times to help us grow stronger in endurance, character, and hope.
As just one example, enjoy the following excerpt from my devotional, Find Peace, about a difficult season for my son, Luke. And how God, in His infinite goodness and kindness, strengthened him in the most unexpected way. Today, Luke is applying to college mechanical engineering programs. He went from desperation to hope. We can, too.
Adjusting To The New Normal
It had been a hard day for our seventh-grade son. Many days were. As Luke adjusted to living with epilepsy, his brain had constant “spikes” of abnormal electrical activity. They interfered with normal processing. And further, the medicine that prevented bodily seizures also slowed down his processing speed. So subjects that used to come easily were now huge challenges. He had to learn to read again. To learn on his own what other kids learned in class. To keep his motivation up while working twice as hard for worse grades, often wrestling through simple homework long after others were done for the day.
He rarely complained. But there were moments when the dam broke. When he felt stupid. When the long road in front of him hurt his heart. And his tears hurt ours.
On this particular day, I felt so helpless to know how to encourage him. But then Jeff put his arm around our son’s shaking shoulders and said, “Bud, do you remember that movie we saw last week, Cinderella Man?”
Strengthening Your Left Hand
That movie tells the story of real-life boxer James J. Braddock, who lived during the Great Depression. Boxing allowed him to put food on the table. In the ring, he wasn’t as effective with his left hand, but he was a powerhouse with his right. Then, tragedy: He broke his right hand. His career was over. He was now competing with thousands of other desperate men for very few day laborer jobs. His family was going hungry. So he hid the fact that his right hand was broken to get steady work at the docks. It was excruciating and exhausting, but each day he would grit his teeth and do most of the work one-handed.
Long after his broken right hand had healed, his old manager approached him to take part in a token fight. Everyone knew he had no chance, but it was a paycheck, so Braddock accepted—and was as shocked as everyone else when he easily won. All those excruciating months of work at the docks had unexpectedly made his “weaker” left hand very strong. It had made him into a champion.
Jeff told our son, “Buddy, that is like what you are going through. These hard things are strengthening you in ways you can’t imagine right now. You are having to face things that most people will never face. You are holding up under a burden that would crumble most kids. But you know what? Other kids have their own burdens that you will never have to face, either. Everyone has something. But that is what God uses to build our character. This . . . this is building your left hand.”
We Can Rejoice In Our Suffering
When we or a child are in pain, it is easy to dwell on the “broken right hand.” Oh, how we want to be spared the hardship and the tears. Braddock would never have chosen the pain he walked through, just as we would never choose to experience ours—or allow our kids to experience theirs. And yet God is wiser than we are. Braddock’s story gives us a glimpse of why God tells us to “rejoice in our sufferings.” Those hard times we would never have chosen will produce endurance, character, and a hope that we would never trade.
Two and a half years after that conversation, Jeff and I had tears streaking our cheeks for a different reason. At the year-end awards ceremony, Luke was called onstage for not one but two academic medals. Medals he earned not really that year, but during those hard months and years before. Those months when he had stayed inside working so hard, trying to figure out how to learn things again, and not losing hope while he did it—strengthening his left hand.
Excerpt taken from Shaunti’s devotional Find Peace from iDisciple Publishing
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This article was also published at Patheos.
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