Last night I finished Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. As I thought about Louie Zamperini’s amazing life, it occurred to me that I’d much rather hear stories from people who have overcome obstacles and trials than those who only share their success stories in good times. In other words, I’m a little tired of leadership books touting strategic success and how great a leader is. I’d rather hear from people in the trenches who face difficult decisions, wrestle with them, endure, and learn something on the other end. .
And then, as I pondered further, I wondered why it was that we actively try to avoid the very trials that will someday make compelling stories? We create elaborate strategies to insulate us against any possible pain or trial. I’m not saying we should court trouble. What I am saying is that we should not be so scared about what may befall us. Isn’t God capable of helping us? When we look back on our lives, isn’t it precisely those times we face trials when we grow deeply and widely?
That’s why I love the way J.B. Phillips translates James 1:2: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends.” That’s certainly not easy to do. I typically want to see all trials and temptations as intruder, pests come to bother me, lions come to devour. But if I can shift my perspective to wanting to live the kind of story that inspires, I’ll be more apt to see pain as a friend. Isn’t that what friends do? Better our lives? Enhance us? Refine us? Help shape us?
I met people who live inspiring stories every day. They sat with me at Cape Town at my table. Together, they shared a cornucopia of trials: severe persecution, imprisonment, violence, poverty, family dysfunction, fear, overwhelming workloads. And yet, their stories sung. They’d learned to welcome trials as friends. They didn’t shrink back. They persevered.
That’s what I want to be: a believer who shakes hands with my trials, who moves on through adversity, who endures for the sake of a better story.
How about you? When have you been able to welcome a trial as a friend? How is your story better because of a trial? What encouragement can you give to us who are facing trials?