AN ENCOURAGING WORD written for June 17, 2010, by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church
Dr. Scott Peck begins his most helpful book, The Road Less Traveled, with the simple sentence: "Life is difficult." When I first read Dr. Peck's book, that opening sentence stopped me dead in my tracks. As much as I knew it to be true, I did not want to accept it.
We all have a mental model of what life is suppose to be like and most of us have no place for 'difficulty' in that model. We go through life feeling that every time we have difficulty something wrong or abnormal has slipped into our lives. Any model of life that ignores the constant recurrence of difficulty in some form is bound to be disappointing, because as Dr. Peck explained, "life is difficult." Our mistaken model of life causes us yet another difficulty; a feeling of disillusionment that life has not been even-handed and fair with us because it has been so difficult.
Happiness is not the result of a trouble free life. If it were, we would never have a taste of it - not in this world. Happiness is a condition that graces our lives when we find creative ways of coping with difficulty. Happiness is not a singular experience that comes to us independent of other life experiences; it is a part of the whole cloth of life. It is a by-product. It is refined from life's inevitable difficulties by a style of creative living in which we accept and deal with the reality of our difficulties.
We have not been placed here in this life for the purpose of dodging difficulty, but for the purpose of meeting it. Someone has suggested that at the end of life 'God will not look for your medals, degrees or awards, but for your scars'. That may be a better measurement of meaning than most of us could imagine. The scar tissue of adversity can become the muscle of character. There are some who will never achieve greatness because they never had enough adversity to make them strong.
No sane person goes out in life looking for trouble, but no person begins to achieve his or her potential unless life is seasoned with some adversity. Disraeli once said: "There is no education like adversity". No person is really educated until he or she has an advanced degree from the University of Adversity.
The ugly scars of adversity are like Rembrandts before God. Take a look at your life and see how many battle scars you have. You may be a hero and just do not know it. Do not hide your scars. Celebrate the victories they represent.