I was listening to a sermon by Joel Osteen the other day, and he shared something I thought was important. He was talking about how we deal with difficulties and problems in our lives. If there’s one thing we can agree on—we all experience trouble. I’ve been pretty lucky in my life, but I’m not immune to trouble. For example, in the past year, I struggled to recover from a broken tailbone. My uncle was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and died four months later. I’m sure you have your own list of troubles in your life.
Common Responses to Trouble
Often when we experience difficulty and struggle, our response is to get angry and frustrated. “It’s not fair,” we might tell ourselves. We resist the trouble, not wanting to admit it is happening. Or, we might get overwhelmed and depressed by our struggles. We might not believe that life will ever get better. We might think God has abandoned us.
Trouble as Transportation
Joel offered a different perspective. He invited us to view our trouble as transportation. In other words, could we view our trouble as the vehicle that is moving us toward the next thing that God has for us? Could we be open and look for the opportunity in our obstacle?
At face value, it might seem like a “pie-in-the-sky” idea. When you’re in the midst of trouble, it can be difficult to notice anything good about what is happening. However, science is clear that some people do experience benefits from their struggles. In psychology, we call this post-traumatic growth.
2 Key Benefits of Trouble
In my own life, I have experienced at least 2 ways that trouble acts as transportation:
- Trouble helps us develop our character. Like a muscle, our character doesn’t grow unless it is stretched. To grow in patience, your patience has to be tested. To grow in courage, you have to face danger. To grow in peace, you have to face anxiety and worry. If things are always going well for you, your character doesn’t have a chance to grow. This kind of growth happens in times of difficulty and struggle. Your trouble can serve as a crucible that helps develop you into the person you were meant to be.
- Trouble helps us connect and empathize with others. Sometimes it’s tough to truly understand and empathize with someone if we haven’t been in their situation. If you always have had enough to eat, for example, it can be tough to empathize with someone who is hungry. If you haven’t lost anyone close to you, it can be tough to empathize with someone who is grieving. When we go through our own struggles, it helps us connect with others who are struggling. Our pain serves as a connector to the rest of humanity.
If you are going through a time of trouble right now, could you think of your trouble as transportation? What might God have next for you? Even though being in pain sucks, is there anything you can take away from the experience, to set you up for your next step?