I’m a history teacher. You probably already know that. I also have a biblical worldview. So I can’t help but to see spiritual undertones wrapped up in historical events. A recent lesson in my US History class involved the Great Depression. We explored causes and effects of what would be considered the worst economic crisis in recent memory. The well accepted dates of the depression (at least for the US) was 1929 to 1939. It came on the heals of one of the most prosperous decades in US history; the Roaring Twenties. As we had been covering this topic over a couple of weeks, I had been considering other forces at work besides the economic ones.
Here’s what I mean. The 1920’s were regarded as a carefree era for many, full of parties, and absent of the dread of war and international conflict. Many Americans were making it big with the stock market and booming business. Some historians label the decade as America’s adolescent years. When the economy slows, and the stock market comes crashing down in 1929, the adolescents comes to an abrupt end. Thus begins the depression.
I believe that God allows certain things to happen in our lives in order to makes us who we were created to be. The Bible is full of stories where God gives people over to their lifestyle choices, knowing the tragic effects it will have, in order to forge a new person. Just read through the book of Judges and you’ll see several generations that needed to be drawn back to God through the trials that they brought on themselves. Now, I’m not making the claim that all hardships faced in life are brought on by ourselves, but many are. I’m NOT saying that people deserve hard times. I’m saying we NEED them.
Many of those who’s lives were shaken by the cumulative effects of the economic depression had nothing to do with causing it. But the benefits could be gained by all. When we are in the process of going through hard times, it’s difficult to see the benefits to be gained. We can see our struggles. We can see pain. We can easily drown in doubt and despair. But that can’t be the end of our story. And for that to not be the end, we have to make a choice.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…
Romans 5:1-4 (ESV)
Those who fought in World War Two are often referred to as America’s greatest generation. That generation was forged out of – you guessed it – the Great Depression. Those men who fought on the front lines, and those women who worked as nurses and factory workers, grew up in the fires of the Great Depression. They knew what it was like to fight. In a time when unemployment spiked over 20 percent, a nation had to come together and had to persevere, or it would crumble. That generation took the lessons learned in fighting poverty, and applied it to fighting for freedom from Nazi and Japanese aggression. A people who grew up with nothing, knew how fragile it all was. A people who had to persevere are a people who value God’s goodness. A people who have suffered loss, know what humility is all about. A people who have had to struggle, know what it is to lean on God, and on God’s people. You can’t place a value on those lessons.
In another unit, I teach about how steel revolutionized America and Europe, paving the way for a major industrial boom. That became possible because William Kelley and Henry Bessemer developed a new process of making steel. In simple terms, you take the iron ore, melt it down with intense heat, and inject high pressure air into that molten metal. The combination of the heat, air, and pressure burn of the impurities. The end result is a much much stronger metal. Without purifying the ore like this, it would not be possible to build the expanded railroad system, skyscrapers, or the massive bridge networks that linked cities.
The trials of life are hard, no doubt about it. But trials are also helpful in making us more useful in life. Those who know what it is to struggled in life are the best equipped to help others who struggle. I’ve had a spouse commit adultery which led to a rough and hurtful divorce. I’ve lost my father, grandfather, and grandmother, all whom I was extremely close to. I’ve suffered physical challenges that caused me to give up something I love. I’ve held my children as they battled through illnesses. I’ve been broke. I’ve been turned against by those I care about. I’ve battled depression and addiction. I am no stranger to trials, and I’m guessing, neither are you. You have your own story of hurt, disappointment, betrayal, and loss. That is your fire. And it’s meant to make you stronger. Your fires give you a voice into the lives of those who are hurting. Your fires draw you closer to the God who made you. Your fires can make you burn brighter as the light of the world that you were created to be in Christ.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:6-11 (ESV)
I hope that you find encouragement in your time of need. Know that there is purpose in pain, and hope in your hurt. Don’t keep your story to yourself, whether your in the fires now, or you’ve come out on the other end. Your story is important. Feel free to share them here if you’d like. Your struggles are important. Don’t give up but take heart. God has not abandoned you, and never will.
Peace in Christ brothers and sisters