By David Faust
It doesn’t help to put off distasteful tasks. If you need to handle an unpleasant problem, get it over with. Make it the first item on your to-do list.
But what if you have to eat toads all day long? What if
your problems don’t go away but linger on and on? What if you resolve one problem only to face 10 more? Yes, God works in all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28); but that truth is hard to appreciate when the pressure is on and the pain persists. We like to quote James 1:2 to our suffering friends: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”—but we aren’t so keen about applying that verse to our own struggles.
Some spiritual qualities, though, are born of the battle. There are life-lessons we cannot learn and character qualities we cannot develop except by going through the crucible of suffering.
Suffering teaches us tenacity and trust. We can’t develop spiritual muscle power without some weight-lifting. The apostle Paul observed that he and his colleagues endured “great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure,” but “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:8, 9).
Suffering pushes us toward maturity. Constant pampering produces spoiled children, not mature adults. Our Father’s goal isn’t to batter us, but to better us. “The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3, 4).
Suffering enhances our creativity. If David had experienced nothing but victory and prosperity, he never would have written about half of the Psalms.
Several great hymns of the church were written between 1861 and 1865 during the bloody War Between the States. It’s not surprising that songs with military themes like America’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (1862) and Britain’s “Onward Christian Soldiers” (1864) appeared around this time. However, this turbulent season also produced the thoughtful lyrics of “My Jesus, I Love Thee” (1864) and “Jesus Paid It All” (1865). In 1862 a young minister in Philadelphia wanted to create a song based on the 23rd Psalm. Joseph H. Gilmore later wrote, “It was the darkest hour of the Civil War . . . . It may subconsciously have led me to realize that God’s leadership is the one significant fact in human experience, that it makes no difference how we are led, or where we are led, so long as we are sure God is leading us.” The lyrics of Gilmore’s hymn, “He Leadeth Me,” have inspired God’s people ever since.
Another flurry of hymn-writing followed the Civil War, including the classic Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (1868) and Fanny J. Crosby’s “Praise Him! Praise Him” (1869). Blind from early childhood, Crosby wrote more than 8,000 hymns. She said, “If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things around me.”
Her songs were born of the battle.
The best songs usually are.
And that’s good news when you wake up to find a toad on your breakfast table.