Think of how it works with our muscles. To build muscle, you have to actually tear the muscle. And then, when it heals, the scar tissue builds the muscle up and strengthens it.
Biologists have witnessed this in their work among plants and animals for years. They call it the adversity principle. They have discovered that habitual, ongoing well-being is not good for a species. An existence without challenge is not healthy.
You see it in the flabby animals at a zoo that have their food delivered to them every day.
You see it in rainforest trees—because water is everywhere, they don’t have to extend their root system more than a few feet below the surface. As a result, the slightest windstorm can knock them down. But a tree that is planted in dry land has to send its roots down 30 feet or more in search of water. Then, not even a gale force wind can knock those trees down.
It’s no different with our life. Our pain is often what has developed us, strengthened us, allowed us the ability to grow. And that is, of course, precisely what the Bible teaches: “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3, NIV).
I am sorry for those who have early first trimester miscarriages, have a car breakdown when money is tight, have to put a beloved pet down or have a cousin who has shingles. But again, to elevate such everyday struggles to the level of spiritual or emotional devastation betrays a significant deficiency not only in faith, but in perspective.
I think of Corrie ten Boom who endured the horrors of Ravensbruck, the infamous Nazi concentration camp for women. (You can read her story in the anointed pages of her biography The Hiding Place.) After her imprisonment, Corrie traveled throughout the world, telling her story of suffering in the context of a faith in God. For 33 years following Ravensbruck, she never had a permanent home. When she was 85 years old, some friends provided her with a lovely home in California. It was a luxury she never dreamed she would have. One day, as a friend was leaving her home, he said, “Corrie, hasn’t God been good to give you this beautiful place?”
She replied firmly, “God was good when I was in Ravensbruck, too.”
So maybe the next time challenge comes, there should be less lawn mowing and certainly less wallowing. Perhaps we should just pick up a copy of The Hiding Place and be reminded of the role faith is meant to play in the face of adversity.
And remember that God is good to us there, too.
Sonja Haller, “Meet the ‘Lawnmower Parent,” the New Helicopter Parents of 2018,” USA Today, September 20, 2018, read online.
Bob Smietana, “Prosperity Gospel Taught to 4 in 10 Evangelical Churchgoers,” Christianity Today, July 31, 2018, read online.
Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.
James Dobson, When God Doesn’t Make Sense.
The story of the gift of Corrie’s home was cited by Billy Graham in Hope for the Troubled Heart.
Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place.
This article about lawnmower parents originally appeared here.