“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
When my first child was born, he immediately struggled to eat. There was no army crawling up to mommy’s milk, no easy latch, no instinctive connection between us. He would not take his food easily, and what he did swallow he often spit up. As he aged, he didn’t grow very much. Despite my efforts and multiple feeding methods, my baby fought his food and I was easily discouraged. I used to sit with him for what felt like the entire day, just trying to get him to eat. What kind of a mother can’t even feed her own child? I thought to myself. While my heart was in turmoil within me, I heard a calm voice in my head say, “It’s a good thing.” What? A good thing? This? No. No this is awful. This is not the way motherhood is supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be hard. Is it?
“It’s a good thing,” said the voice again. This conflict I was dealing with did not feel good at all.
As my son refused yet another drop of milk, the aching in my chest filled my eyes. I knew, even as I suffered to watch him fight against this best thing for him, that it was important that he conquer this step. I told my son, “it’s a good thing… I know this is hard right now, but if you keep trying, you’ll get stronger. If you learn this part, you’ll be able to tackle the next one.” With tears streaming down my face, I began to realize that I was right in the middle of strength training with my son. This struggle felt horrible and hard. It was difficult to understand why God would let me go through this, just as my son surely questioned the insistence of his mother. But God knew the bigger picture. He knew that even though it wasn’t pleasant, or fun, or pretty… that this was good.
When my husband, and my children’s daddy, died in February of 2016, I cried to God. How can this be a good thing? What could possibly be good about losing this man from our lives? Why did you allow this very bad thing to happen? At first, I claimed the phrase “it’s a good thing” as I thought about Romans 8:28. “God will work ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes…” and I believe that fully. However, that verse simply says that God will use this thing for good… not that the thing itself is good. If I tried to apply my phrase to this passage, wouldn’t that really mean that “It WILL BE a good thing?”
So, how can I call this good?
With some distance from those times, I am beginning to understand a different meaning of “it’s a good thing.” Simply put, the “this” I’m talking about is the struggle, not the cause of that struggle. No matter what initiated the conflict, there is value in fighting the battle that follows.
While they may not feel “good,” these hardships that we encounter day by day are teaching us endurance when we work through them. James 1:2-4 says, “consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
But sometimes, things are a little more complicated. The fog is too thick, the pain is too deep, my armor too thin, and my muscles too weak to fight in the battle. It is in those moments that I can call out to God who will fight for me. When I cannot wield my sword in the struggle, I’m learning to give God the control He already has over the whole picture. In leaning on Him I come to understand more about His faithfulness. In that place, I learn to hold on to the hope of Heaven because of Jesus. It’s a good thing. Like a rock under extreme pressure from a refining fire, I become like a diamond when God holds me through the trials.
Life is hard. This world is full of sin and sickness, terrible pain and death. Evil is never a good thing. Our struggle in the midst of it, however, will bring about glorious things. Even though it may feel excruciating, ugly, or despicable, this refining process can be the strength training that God is using to bring you through to the next place. In this life there will be struggle… and it’s a good thing.