Life’s most profound lessons are not learned in moments of ease and comfort but rather in the midst of suffering. Hardship is a tutor like no other, and the lessons it teaches resonate throughout one’s life more intensely than anything else.
I am a middle-aged man, and to this day, I still have quirks I trace back to my early childhood. I’ll be the first to admit that not all are positive, but I know where they stem from, nonetheless. It took a long time for my wife to understand why I couldn’t have an empty refrigerator in the home, even after I explained it to her a half dozen times.
When we first got to America, things were tight. My dad worked, my mom worked, but it wasn’t as though what they were earning was close to minimum wage even. The sad reality for many immigrants is that for the first few months, if not for the first couple of years, they get taken advantage of to the point of criminality. My dad worked for a guy for months without getting paid; my mom was making five dollars an hour for cleaning homes until her hands were cracked and bleeding because, contrary to the stenciled signs most people have in their homes, a man without God is a brutal, savage, vicious beast capable of untold horrors as long as they can justify it to themselves.
I don’t have fond memories of my childhood, at least not as most kids do. I remember my parents, grandparents, and brothers fondly enough, but as far as specific things that make me smile when recollected, there are very few, if any. My memories consist of walking up and down the aisle of our grocery store with my mother and being repeatedly told that we didn’t have money for this or that because we didn’t. All she had was two dollars and change, and that was reserved for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. No Lucky Charms, even though they were magically delicious. We just couldn’t afford it.
I know this is the reason behind my inability to sleep well at night if I have an empty refrigerator, and likely also why I tend to spoil my daughters more than I ought to.
The hardships, however, also taught me to be industrious and see value in what others didn’t. The first few months in America taught me that being dependent on others for your daily bread is a dangerous proposition, even though I was nine at the time.
The lessons of suffering are not exclusive to any race, gender, or ethnicity, because there is universality in suffering. Suffering is universal. Everyone everywhere has suffered something at some point. They understand it as a baseline. When you speak of it, they can relate, and you can build upon that foundation to try and make them see something they would otherwise be unable to.
Because of the profundity of what occurred between the good thief and the unrepentant thief hanging on either side of Jesus, some fail to remember that both were hanging on crosses. Both were suffering. One grew bitter and stiff-necked in his suffering. The other had a moment of epiphany and realized such a transformative truth that he gained entrance into Paradise by it.
Suffering molds a man more readily than anything. When you suffer for righteousness’ sake and do not resist the molding thereof, what remains after the suffering is done is something God can glory in, something more akin to what He desired you to be before the suffering commenced.
Because we have Christ and His admonition to be of good cheer amid our hardships and trials, because we know that through the suffering we are allowed to experience we are being perfected, we do not fret or agonize as those of the world. We endure knowing it is for a glorious purpose.
2 Timothy 2:3, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
If you want to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, you must endure hardship. There are no opt-out options. You can’t get an exemption for having flat feet or corns. You can’t get a waiver from your congressman or senator either. The only way to keep from enduring hardship is to no longer desire to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
It’s the equivalent of moving to Canada for those who got drafted into the military back in the day. It’s a choice you can make, but once you make that choice, you can’t call yourself a soldier of Jesus Christ in good standing.
I know, choices. It’s said you make 35,000 of them a day. Maybe start with the important ones first once in a while.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea, Jr.
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