One year Karen's husband traveled a great deal and she was often lonely. Loneliness can bring emotional pain that invites self-pity. But Karen learned to watch. When self-pity began to seep in, she used her pain to understand the pain of those who were truly alone. She thanked God for the privilege, this rare gift of being able to empathize with others' agony, so that her prayers were not superficial. She prayed fervently for the widowed, the abandoned, the alienated.
God uses our difficulties for good in our lives. When we trust Him, He simply will not allow our troubles to be wasted. No wonder Paul and James tell us to be joyful in our trials. God is doing a greater work in us than would be possible without the difficulties.
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to encourage them during great troubles, he didn't pray first of all for their deliverance. He wrote: "God will use this persecution.... For he will make you worthy of His Kingdom, for which you are suffering" (2 Thessalonians 1:5 NLT).
When we are going through a difficulty or we are waiting for a long-delayed answer to prayer, what does God want us to do? Both Paul and James would respond in the same surprising way. Be joyful; rejoice!
Thank You, Father, for never allowing us to go through any difficulty but what Your heart is to do us good.
"Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy for when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow" (James 1:2-3).
"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us-they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us" (Romans 5:3-4).