We sat across the table from one another, tea (and coffee) in hand. Our friendship relatively new, she asked me to share my story. In an instant, I was taken back a few years to a difficult time in my life. Not that long ago, I would've dreaded telling anyone these things, let alone somebody I'd only met recently. As I recounted such dark moments, I remembered a time when all I expected out of life was happiness. It wasn't that I didn't believe in suffering - I just thought it would never happen to me. When the inevitable adversity arrived at my proverbial doorstep, I had no clue how to handle it. Part of me wanted to stand and fight it; part of me wished to run and hide. But no part of me chose to welcome it. It was my enemy.
For the next four years of my life, I would taste sorrow time and time again. Loss would become the norm…pain, a constant companion. But it gradually began to dawn on me how unrealistic it truly is to think that we can journey through life untouched by the evidences of a fallen world: pain, suffering, betrayal, hatred, loss, grief…all these things mankind brought on itself when it chose to believe the simple lie that God wasn't enough. And so we live with the results of our own folly. But we somehow keep thinking that we can avoid them!
Going back to my conversation - I looked across at my friend and candidly told her, "It's still hard for me to talk about it…" because it is. No one enjoys describing dark days in their past. But I did follow up that statement with another…one that best reflects my new-found perspective: "While I do not wish what I went through on anybody, I do not regret it either. I know that, had all of those things not occurred, I would not be where I'm at today. I would not have the message that I have today."
Because I have come to view my past through this lens, I have also discovered a view of my future: the question is not will suffering ever come, but when? Life is not about if things that are grievous will occur, but how will we respond when they do? For several months, my life has been a non-stop stream of blessings. To many, including myself, things couldn't be going better. And yet, I realize that it won't always be this way. There will be more dark days that arise down the road. I cannot avoid them when they show up. But I can make the decision to face them - to welcome them even - provided that I am changed for the better as a result. I have even come to wish that I could travel back in time to talk to my younger self…just so I could tell that lost girl what I know now.
Don't kid yourself by thinking that an easy road is the way to happiness. It usually isn't, and life will prove this to you. Rather, strive to gain a more realistic view, and realize that the harder road will most likely be the path to character; the desert of life will be the place where you discover who God is. And, one day, like me, you will look back and say, "Those trials did me much good, and I am thankful for them."