Swimming pools are closed, boats are docked, school starts and summer comes to grinding halt… the American holiday of Labor Day is a turning point. I don’t let summer go so easily; I hold on as if something precious is slipping away. The end of summer marks the beginning of cold, bitter weather… with a brief respite of spiced apple cider and crunchy fall leaves in between. The autumn here is short; the winter is very long.
Moving through the seasons of life is a bit the same. The seasons of relatively trouble-free times are short, actually. Most people I know would agree. The truth is we are always at the cusp of a storm– whether we’ve just walked through one, or are about to walk through one. Life isn’t about the calm weather.
I read this quote the other day:
“Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying on the rotting prison floor I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we have been told, but rather the maturing of the human soul.”
— written by Russian novelist, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, after having spent 12 years in Russian gulag
Spending 12 years in a Russian labor camp will produce something in a person. It will either be character, or bitterness. But there will be a result.
I can’t imagine spending 12 years like this. Where does a person’s hope come from? Even for the strongest person– how does he keep from falling into despair over the daily drudgery, injustice, cruelty? How and where?
Our prisons, our hardships, our trials, our storms– they show us something that fair weather obscures from our view. They show us a piece of truth that we need to know. They reveal to us why we are here and what is important. What we each might take away during our trials is different. For Solzhenitsyn, he realized, on the rotting prison floor that life was not about gaining more prosperity, but rather it had to do with something more– “the maturing of the human soul.”
And just how does a human soul become mature? The answer, my friend, can be found here:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. –James 1:2-3
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. –I Peter 4:12
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. –2 Corin. 4:17
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. –Philippians 1:12
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. –Philippians 3:7-11
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. — Proverbs 1:7
One could argue, based upon the above verse from Proverbs, that trials are not even necessary– but the fear of the Lord is. Perhaps. I certainly believe God can impart any kind of wisdom He desires any of His children should have, when He wants them to have it and when they need it.
But in my experience, it’s the dirty floor of suffering, the floor where our tears have washed the ground, that teaches in a profound way what is really important. Being on the floor brings us back to the face of God, and that is where anything and everything makes much more sense. I can’t say I, or we, will understand it all. But we’ll know what is important, what is real, what is true, and what road to take.
Counting gifts, #892-901:
892. a sunny morning
893. hearing crickets at night
894. grilling burgers and sharing with a neighbor
895. a picnic for a friend’s little boy
896. first day for daughter to go to high school, part-time
897. the kids sailing on the lake
898. the Bible Bee, finished, all went well
899. people who smile when they see you….
900. cleaning and decluttering, bit by bit
901. that it’s still warm, it hasn’t turned cold yet