As I waited for my husband one afternoon at the mall, I watched several kids slide by me. One moment, they were walking normally, and the next, they were happily sliding across the tile floors. Apparently, they and their parents had opted to buy the latest fad: a shoe with a wheel inside the heel.
Although I have read that some malls and schools have banned these shoes, and a few accidents have occurred because of this footwear, I can understand the appeal. After my husband and I got married, we lived in an apartment with shiny wood floors. I used to enjoy sliding across the living room in my socks--much to his dismay. "You might fall and get hurt!" he would tell me. "But it's fun!" I would reply. "Why don't you try it?"
Thinking about this from a spiritual perspective, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could slide through our troubles and dry times? Not having to walk ploddingly through our difficulties would seem to be a wonderful gift. But, conversely, we would probably want to savor every moment of the days of abundant blessings, hoping that they would last as long as possible. Then, when they ended and we were once again besieged by trials, sliding through them would provide almost immediate relief.
Although that scenario sounds very appealing, God's plan does not place as high a premium on our comfort as we do. Yes, He is concerned about our well-being, and He often provides for some of our wants as well as our needs. However, as a loving Father, He cares deeply about our spiritual development. Unfortunately, we do not grow very much when we are sliding through our problems or when everything goes our way. Of course, I've had my moments when I've prayed, "Haven't I grown enough already? Please just make this trial end right now!"
James tells us that testing and difficulties develop perseverance, which is necessary so that we will be "mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:3–4, NIV). What happens if we do not face our difficulties and rely on the Lord to help us triumph over them? We will remain immature and incomplete. But is that such a terrible thing?
A student who fails to learn how to read, but is promoted anyway, will be seriously handicapped throughout his life. Whether shopping for groceries, taking a driver's test, dealing with health problems, or applying for a job--in countless situations--the person who cannot read will suffer loss of self-esteem, missed opportunities, and possibly even serious injury. If we do not develop perseverance, we will be incomplete--like the person who does not learn to read--and we will be constantly running here and there to find a way out of every difficulty. We will faint at the first sign of trouble and become easy prey for the enemy.
James also says, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him" (1:12, NIV). So, if we do not develop perseverance, not only will our life here on earth be adversely affected, but also our eternal future. When we stand before God's throne, God will take from our memory all the trials and suffering we endured during our lives, but what He was able to develop in us will remain forever.
©2007 by Nancy A. Stevens