Are you over the word “unprecedented”? An adjective that has been used liberally to describe almost everything over the past months.
We are living through a pandemic, something that, thankfully, doesn’t happen that often. But then, life is difficult. It frequently throws us a curveball when we least expect it. No one sails through life untouched by disappointment, hurt, disaster, loss, grief or pain.
One of my favourite books is by Scott Peck, “The Road Less Travelled”. His opening words are, “Life is difficult.”
Peck (a privileged white man, living in the nation that has the highest standard of living in the world) goes on to say that life is a series of problems. He challenges our thinking and perspective by stating we can choose to moan about our problems or solve them. “Don’t we want to teach our children to solve them?”, Peck asks on page one.
In the process of meeting and solving problems, we grow, we become. We don’t grow physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually unless we embrace life’s challenges and see them as opportunities for growth.
Challenge isn’t without pain and suffering.
The Bible (God’s word) is truth. Indeed, it has been described as the “user manual” for human beings. Several writers in the Bible talk about the challenges of life, but frame those times as an opportunity for growth.
“And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested (Zechariah 13:9);” and, “These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7).”
The story of Job in the Old Testament is probably the most pertinent. Job wrestled with suffering. He argued with God about his position of pain, but always returned to a place of trust in God as being sovereignly good.
Of course, we want our children to learn how to solve the problems they come across. Challenge develops and refines resilience, in the same way that exercise builds up muscles. Resilience is one of the greatest indicators of a person’s ability to grow through suffering.
Life is about growth, becoming better people, more Christ-like, able to express genuine love to all humanity.
I know many of us have already reflected on the past semester. We have lived through it. I think we are better for it. I pray that the three-week break from School can be another opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved, what we truly value, and who we are becoming as a result of our times of “refinement”.
Dr Paul Browning