Order Disorder Reorder Part 3: Reorder

Day 1 of 7 • This day’s reading


What The Hard Times Taught Me

Proverbs 8:11 says that “wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” How do we get wisdom? Proverbs 4:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

So where can I find wisdom and understanding? Where is its locus and what maps and compass do I use to get there?

Curiosity is helpful. So is humility. Teachability and the willingness to admit we're wrong are key, because when I’m wrong I have an opportunity to learn something new. These are vital tools for the explorer looking for wisdom and understanding. 

The search often takes us through failure and suffering, but we find Jesus waiting to meet us there, ready to put us back together again and help us learn some of life's greatest lessons that can only be discovered in the ruins. 

An early mentor told me that he didn’t trust anyone who hadn’t been broken. Though I recognized the wisdom of his words, I was still blind to my own ignorance—too eager to form opinions and give advice about things I knew so little about. 

I’m embarrassed to remember some of the things I said to friends who were struggling with depression, going through divorce, or grieving some great loss. Looking back, I can see how often I was like one of Job’s “worthless physicians” and “miserable comforters”—stroking my own self-righteousness by offering answers that came too easily for me, so ignorant and yet so certain at the same time. (It’s funny how often certainty and ignorance walk hand in hand, isn’t it? These days I think of my sense of certainty as an alarm to alert me to the possibility that I may be clinging to some cherished ignorance.)

It took being broken and going through hell in my life to learn how to be of any use to others going through their own hell. Suffering, loss, and failure are what God used to teach me compassion, empathy, and humility. Though I’m still so far from where I want to be, I'm grateful to be miles from where I was. 

And that’s worth so much, isn’t it? To come out the other side of our hard times as someone who can love and help others in their suffering is no small thing. In fact, it may be the most excellent thing (1 Cor 12:31-1 Cor 13:13), or as the 5th century Irish monk Brendan says in the novel bearing his name by Frederick Buechner: “To lend each other a hand when we're falling. Perhaps that's the only work that matters in the end."

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the great pioneer on grief, said, “Every hardship is an opportunity that you are given, an opportunity to grow.... You will not grow if you sit in a beautiful flower garden, but you will grow if you are sick, if you are in pain, if you experience losses, and if you do not put your head in the sand, but take the pain as a gift to you with a very, very specific purpose.”

Robert Lee sums things up nicely when he says, “Wisdom is healed pain.” In other words: some things can only be learned the hard way.

In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a hope and a future…” And it's hopeful to think that God is leading me into a future where no experience in my life is wasted, and that the author and finisher of my faith (Heb. 12:2) is working all of it together for my good (Rom. 8:28), to bring me into maturity until I attain “to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:13)

Over and over God uses the hard times to make me wiser, kinder, and stronger—more able to see through the blindness of my self-righteous ignorance, discern the truth, make good decisions, and finally be able to love others well in their own hard times, which may be the highest and most Christlike wisdom of all.

I’m learning to welcome the hard times with a desire to learn and expectancy--even though it may cost everything!--because the hard times come bearing gifts "more precious than rubies..."