Four Gifts You May Not Want … but Absolutely Need!
Everyone likes to receive a gift. But what about the gifts you’ve been receiving all along and didn’t appreciate? How can we make the most of them?
Why is it that some people seem to rise above difficult circumstances, while others get stuck? Many factors go into making or breaking a person. But consider this: everyone has challenges that arise throughout his or her lifetime. But instead of viewing these challenges totally negatively, we can view these things as gifts.
How we view these gifts, though, and how we respond to them, will shape our lives forever.
The gift of adversity
Hard times are a universal part of life; there’s no way to avoid them. Just as we push our body through tests of endurance to see what it can handle, our personal character is also revealed through adversity. We come to see ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, when life is at its hardest. If we welcome tough times because we understand that they are a necessary part of learning, then we handle them differently.
The Bible teaches us that we can “count it all joy” when we face the adversity of trials, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).
The gift of suffering
Adversity often brings with it some form of suffering. Our attitude, however, plays an important role in how it will shape us. If we feel that life has treated us unfairly and allow seeds of frustration to put down roots, then resentment, anger and bitterness will be the final result.
Success rarely occurs without first failing, often many times! In fact, the sooner you fail, the faster you get to figure out what you’ve done wrong, correct it, and try again. Consider these words in 1 Peter 2:19-20: “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”
When we suffer because of a poor choice we made, we can consider what to do differently next time and patiently endure the painful consequences. But if we suffer wrongfully, we need not dwell on the unfairness of it.
Learn the lesson and move forward.
The gift of hard work
We could all accomplish great things, if they didn’t require so much effort! Unfortunately, too many of us don’t want to work for things; we want what we want, but only if it comes easily. Yet have you noticed that we often don’t place as much value on things that have been given to us freely? It is only through applying ourselves wholeheartedly to a task that we gain the benefits that come from it.
Read our article “Hard Work” for a biblical perspective on a proper work ethic.
The gift of failure
So you’ve tried and failed—now what? Do you throw up your hands and declare it a waste of time? Or do you look for the opportunity hidden within that setback? Success rarely occurs without first failing, often many times! In fact, the sooner you fail, the faster you get to figure out what you’ve done wrong, correct it, and try again.
Consider those who are known for their successes and how many times they tried before achieving that success: the Wright brothers, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Walt Disney (just to name a few).
There is much to be gained from experiencing these four gifts. Here are only three of the numerous benefits that can result:
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from setbacks. Imagine a rubber band for a moment. Its very purpose is to be stretched and pulled out of shape.
Consider the story of Joseph. He was a young man who was badly treated by his older brothers, sold into slavery, wrongly accused of sexual assault and then thrown into prison for several years. What happened after that is a beautiful example of how a person can reach beyond his own painful experiences to make a positive impact on others. Joseph demonstrated incredible resiliency in all he went through. Read Genesis 37-45!
We, too, are often stretched out of our comfort zones by situations that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable and even painful. But we need not be broken by these situations. We can be elastic—we can recover!
Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of others, coupled with a desire to help. It involves action. If, in our suffering, we turn inward and ruminate on “Why me?” then we miss the opportunity to make a positive difference for someone else.
Joseph was also an excellent example of compassion. Not only did he have concern for all those who would be affected adversely by an approaching famine (Genesis 41:34-36) but also on his brothers who were the cause of his suffering (45:15; 50:19-21).
We talk a lot about wanting to be happy. Happiness is a short-term feeling that often relies on things not fully in our control. For example, we may say, “I’ll be happy when I have a new job” or “if only I had someone who truly loved me.”
Contentment, however, doesn’t depend on future events; it is satisfied with the here and now.
The apostle Paul understood this. “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12, English Standard Version)
Do you long to come out of your current circumstances a better person? These four gifts—adversity, suffering, hard work and failure—are what you need to grow to your fullest potential.
There are no shortcuts, so don’t look for them! Instead, embrace life’s trials and challenges as the opportunities that they truly are.
To learn more about how to deal with the problems we all encounter in life, read our article “Coping With Anxiety.”