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Problems can be friends


Life is a series of problems. We all have our big and not so big troubles. We all have to deal with painful situations and relationships. The question is, how do we deal with them?

When problems come our way, do we resent their intrusion into our lives and try to avoid them or do we stand up to them and try to solve them? Some of us are like Linus of “Peanuts”fame.

Linus says to Charlie Brown: “I don't like to face problems head on. I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them. This is a distinct philosophy of mine. No problem is so big or so complicated that it can't be run away from!”

We try to run from our problems in a variety of ways: we try to put them out of mind, pretending they are not there; or we procrastinate and figure that one day they will just go away; or we might take an extended vacation, or even move to a different location thinking we will leave our problems behind; or we partake of alcohol and drugs to deaden our pain. We may blame other people for them so that we can avoid facing the problems in ourselves. Or then, too, we can simply blame God for our predicament and grow bitter and resentful that trouble should even enter our lives.

If only we could escape to some problem-free paradise! Unfortunately, there is no such place. Life is difficult – period. We can try to avoid our problems, but they have a way of catching up with us. Running from them only makes them worse.

It seems there is only one healthy way to deal with them, and that is to face them head on and try to solve them, or, failing that, adjusting to them as best we can with God's help. The Letter of James in the Bible gives us wise counsel: "When all kinds of trials (problems) crowd into your lives, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends. Realize they have come to test your endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed and you will find you have become men and women of mature character." (James 1:2, Phillips version)

We can welcome problems as friends because they build in us the essential quality of endurance. When a football coach wants to build a good team, he doesn't send it out in the field to play with soft pillows. He puts it to work against tough opponents – a bucking frame, a tackling dummy and he puts them through exercises that are strenuous. So, too, are we toughened by all the problems of life with all its discouragements, frustrations and heartaches. God allows these things to come to us so that qualities of endurance and toughness can be built into us, enabling us to stand against the even fiercer foes and obstacles we can expect down life's road.

Our problems not only build our endurance, but they also serve to shape our entire character. In short, by facing our problems and working through them, we become better people. Our hardships and our difficulties are part of the mix that shapes us, bringing out in us all sorts of qualities that we never would have developed otherwise.

Dealing with our problems makes us more complete and mature people; they make us more sensitive and compassionate and wise. Our problems deepen us in many ways. It seems very true to me that the most beautiful people are often the ones who have had the hardest lives. They have learned from the school of "hard knocks."

They have managed to profit from their troubles.

There is an old Arabic proverb: “All sunshine makes a desert.”

It is the problems of life that cause us to grow.

Yes, as strange as it may seem, they can actually turn out to be our friends!


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