An hour before our evening went from ordinary to chaotic I was reading my devotional. I made a note saying, “Interesting perspective” next to this paragraph:
“Every trouble is an opportunity to win the grace of strength. Whatever else trouble is in the world for, it is here for this good purpose: to develop strength. For a trouble is a moral and spiritual task. It is something which is hard to do. And it is in the spiritual world as in the physical, strength is increased by an encounter with the difficult. A world without any trouble in it would be, to people of our kind, a place of spiritual weakness and moral laziness. Fortunately, every day is crowded with cares. Every day to every one of us brings its questions, its worries, and its tasks, brings its sufficiency of trouble. Thus we get our daily spiritual exercise. Every day we are blessed with new opportunities for the development of strength of soul.”
George Hodges (From “Joy and Strength” compiled by Mary Wilder Tileston)
I closed the devotional, finished a few tasks, and went into the kitchen. The dishwasher was running; cleaning the day’s dishes. About to head upstairs to bed, my husband first went into the basement to put away tools from a project he’d been working on earlier in the day. Suddenly I hear him yell, “Turn off the dishwasher!!!” A pipe had broken in the basement. And not just any pipe, the main sewage line. There was about 2 inches of nasty water covering half of the basement floor. The majority of the water was contained to the storage side of the basement. This is the part where I would love to tell you that we are among the fabulously organized people who have all of their belongings labeled in Rubbermaid tubs and stacked neatly on shelves. If it counts, such a project was on our To-Do list, honestly it was, we just hadn’t gotten to it yet. This unfortunately meant that there were several cardboard boxes on the floor that we hadn’t quite gotten around to sorting since we moved in… 5 years ago. Cardboard boxes that were now soggy, and their contents highly questionable. After the initial shock, intense stress, and a healthy dose of panic, we actually started to laugh at our “head start on the basement project.” It is a lot easier to part with unneeded items when keeping them involves cleaning sewage off of them! We thinned out a lot of junk that night! Needless to say, we worked several hours into the night just to get things to a manageable point where we felt like we could continue the project the following day.
Not only did our burst pipe create a mess, but a large split in the main sewage line also means one can’t use any water, NONE AT ALL, unless you want it to go down the drain and directly onto the basement floor. This means no showers after cleaning sewage for hours (thank goodness for Wet Ones!), brushing teeth out of a cup, no toilet flushing, hand washing, nothing!
When the ‘you know what’ hits the fan, or this case, the floor, you find out who your friends are. One friend immediately offered her house for showers and meals, and the kids and I actually got ready for bed at another friend’s house the following night. I’m thankful to have friends that are totally cool with the question, “Can we brush our teeth in your bathroom?” Hardships really do strengthen and reinforce our relationships and make us even more thankful for the true friends we are blessed with.
The devotional for that day was no doubt divinely placed. Not only did the perspective that hardships are spiritual training help me to laugh a bit through the clean up process, it also helped me to quickly develop a deep gratitude for everyday conveniences, even things I typically dread like dishes and laundry. I was able to see the ability to do those things with running water as a true gift.
Can you see my attitude and thankfulness level changing and increasing on all fronts here? That is what I like to call “Heart Training”. Sure it would be easy to be negative and bitter, but thankfully God had prepared my heart for a good work just in time.
When it comes to physical exercise we’ve all heard statements like, “Feel the burn,” and “No pain, no gain.” We all understand that when we feel the burn, or feel the soreness the next day, it’s a good thing because it means the exercise is doing some good. It means that we’re working hard enough to be stronger once the muscles are healed. The same applies to our spirits and hearts if we’ll allow the trials we face to strengthen us.
What hardship are you facing today? Is it exhaustion, an illness, a stressful relationship? Whatever it is, can you see a way to be strengthened by it? Does it help you to be thankful for something you typically take for granted, or help you to draw closer to God? None of us like trials and tribulations, but I’m trying to see them for their possibilities to work good in my life. It’s not easy and my attitude is definitely not always what it should be. My challenge to us is to face whatever curve balls we may be thrown with the perspective that we can grow positively from them. The next time a struggle presents itself, just take a deep breath and remind yourself… Feel The Burn!