I was just over to Joslyn's site (there's my cheap pop for the day). She's dealing with some pretty difficult things in her life; as I'm sure we all are. I don't think that any one of us can say that we haven't experienced our own storms; whether as small as a drizzle or as destructive as Katrina. We've all gone through something in our lives at one point of another. Lost loves. Sickness. Broken hearts. Lonliness. The list goes on forever. The storms are about as unique as the people who go through them. But perhaps one thing; one thought is prevalent as we all go through: Is there any good that can come out of our struggles?
When I looked in my concordance for the word "struggle", several passages were found. But one passage that particularly stuck out was Paul's letter to the church at Philipi. In the first chapter of that book (you should read the whole chapter, though my concordance only cited a few verses), Paul writes about dealing with his struggles. More notably, he emphasized how we should not always try to find our own personal benefit from being in a storm, but rather to look at how our experience can benefit others.
In the verse 12 of his letter Paul writes:
"Now I would have you know, brothers, that the things which happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel."
Here, I think Paul is pointing out that even in the midst of some of our most difficult times, there is always an opportunity for ministry. I think that how we hold up in a storm can be the very catalyst that other people might need to come closer to Christ. Simply stated, other people can benefit from our hardships.
I went to see Kem in concert last night. This dude is absolutely amazing! If you haven't had a chance to see him perform or listen to his sounds, you're missing out. Anyway, during his performance, he made a break from the music to offer his thanks and praise to God. Apparently, this is something that he does during every one of his performances. He indicated that his life was marked by a long period of drug addiction, alcoholism, and homelessness. But as he gleefully stated, it was by God's grace that he was able to overcome his difficulties. Though he's been clean and sober from 17 years, he shares this story with people even to this day. That to me is a perfect example of using your shame, your hurt, and your trials to market the goodness of God. Though he overcame those problems (even when many of us don't always overcome ours), he was still able to bless others through his struggle; almost two decades removed.
When the world sees us being strong and resolute during our storms, we are able to speak volumes to our character and to God. That will then allow us the opportunity to use our testimony to further the Gospel. We've been given a charge to be living witnesses. But the Bible doesn't factor in whether or not we're "doin' good" as we do so. This leads me to believe that we are live for God whether things are going great in our lives or if they suck.
In verse 13, Paul states:
"As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ."
I think in this verse, Paul is stating that the visible stuff we're going through becomes the impetus for other people to rely on God for their own problems. Watching people emerge from their own storms empowers others to rely on God and His promises as they go through theirs. When you align yourself with God and allow Him to work through your life; people will see it and take notice. Even when people can't visible see God, they'll be able to see him through us.
In verse 14, Paul states:
"Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."
This verse speaks tons to the importance of empowering others. Interestingly, it's not just the unbelievers who stand to benefit from our hardships. Instead, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ can also be encouraged by what we go through. For example: though I'm not a huge fan of stories of heroism in sports, some important lessons can be drawn from those types of circumstances. When you have a person who overcomes obstacles and defies odds, they become a true source of contagious inspiration for others. They take a beating and come back for more. Like a good Rolex, they take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. Through all of that, they empower those around them to stand strong themselves and to depend on God as their source for strength.
So I guess my advice to you is simple: when faced with hard times, we should do our very best to keep a smile on our face and to keep ourselves encouraged. People's eyes are always on us (for both good and bad reasons); and they always look to see how we respond to various situations. You never know: how you respond to these trials may very well be the thing that encourages somebody else as they face their problems. Their delieverance may be come after seeing how we stand through the storm.