“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 NIV

Call me weird but, I am not a fan of suffering. I don’t like the struggle and I’d rather not go through trials in life. Maybe some of us have felt that same way. Oftentimes, my personal proverb was “only if I have to”. If I didn’t have to do it then it wasn’t getting done. I tried to only learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences to seem perfect and that I never messed up. That way, I don’t have to and no one else sees me stumble or struggle – ever. I’ve always just wanted to work hard enough to take life easy and be happy. Laziness was so rampant in my life that it was used to justify my real problem; selfishness. I have frequently thought, I can learn plenty from just listening to stories or watching the life of others and adapting my actions to either follow in their footsteps or do the opposite. I consistently take the path of least resistance and not even realize it. Recently, through my mentoring relationship, I have been shown the consequences of not pushing myself and avoiding all suffering completely: I don’t have my own story. I don’t have my own experiences. I don’t finish things I start. I am soft and ultimately, I lack character. I hardly – or not at all – persevere when things get tough, and that doesn’t inspire anyone. Sadly, my character has been very poor and no one wants to follow or imitate someone who has zero endurance.

Imagine watching a movie but the main actor or actress, has no challenges, doesn’t persevere, shows no sign of struggle, and has no pain to overcome. Let’s just say that at the end of the movie, everything just went…well. That would be terrible! In fact, I would probably leave the theater discouraged! I invested both time and money to see the main character persevere, but instead all I witnessed was them avoiding every experience that could have stretched them and allowed them to show their perseverance! When difficult times arise, we must ask ourselves, how do we react? How often do we accept the challenge, or are we stunting our growth by dodging the very experience that’s supposed to help us? God has invested in us and by doing so He wants to see us persevere! But are we avoiding God’s plan that’s designed to allow us to hope in him more? I believe it’s only with a thorough, biblical understanding on why trials occur in our life that we can have a reason on why we should persevere and not give up.

The Bible says it is necessary for us to go through sufferings. Without the suffering, without the struggle, without the trials, it is impossible for us to truly build character and impossible for us to prove the genuineness of our faith to God.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-8 NIV

The Bible says our faith is greater worth than gold and for gold to be refined, it must get extremely hot! The melting point of gold is 1,948 degrees Fahrenheit! Similarly, for our faith to be refined, we must go through trials that require greater faith every time (our life heats up!). This means when we go through rough times, we can view them more as opportunities and not merely a discouraging test.

I’ve just recently re-enrolled full-time in college courses to finish my degree in social science. I am taking five classes and they are getting more challenging each week. In week one, there were 12 assignments due! In week two, another 14! As things heat up in the classroom I’m learning that being a student applies to so much more than just my schoolwork. Being a student never stops, whether I’m in the classroom or outside the classroom, especially as a Christian. I must always be learning and with God as my teacher, He teaches me through life. My lack of character growth is no one’s fault, but my own. When I am unwilling step up and go through life’s lessons, I stop being a student of Christ and start being a student of the enticed.

“A student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” Luke 6:40

That complacency stops now. I am challenging myself and I want to challenge you all, to push yourself this year. We all need to be more like Christ and allow ourselves to be stretched. Gone is my old mentality of taking life easy and only ever taking the path of least resistance. That thinking won’t allow me to endure, which in turn won’t allow me to build character, and lastly, will cause me to lose hope. My new proverb is now simply, “persevere” and I pray it can be yours too. – Dale Bryant

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