We've all met them. People that look for the silver lining along every cloud, the "lesson to learn" in any adversity. I have to admit that they often get on my nerves.
Just let me alone, and let me be depressed!
I don't mean to be one of those people, and I wouldn't want to say anything that could trivialize or downplay the tremendous loss that we and our friends experience in difficult times. But there may be something we can learn from storms and heartache, from loss and fear. I wouldn't call it silver lining, but I would say that even in the aftermath of tragedy, we can experience comfort and hope.
First, life's difficulties cause us to evaluate our priorities. What really matters? Sometimes adverse situations give us pause from the daily flurry of "normal" life and give us a chance to think about what we're living for. Is there more to life than what I'm living? Is there a higher calling that I should pursue? Am I spending enough time with those I love? When faced with loss, do my priorities make sense?
Second, storms and trials help us maintain an "eternal" perspective. In the Bible, Paul went through many hard times, including the equivalent of a hurricane (and resulting shipwreck) in the Mediterranean Sea . His perspective? "For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." (2 Cor. 4:17-18)
When difficult times come into our lives, whether as a natural disaster or even the result of bad personal choices, we can fix our eyes on eternity. We can realize that any struggle we face on earth is small in comparison to the amazing future God has promised to those who follow him.
Third, hard times deepen our relationship to God and each other. I don't know about you, but when I'm faced with tragedy or a fearful situation, it drives me closer to my family, my friends, and to God. In these times I learn what it means to love, to care, to show compassion, to pray, and to encourage. Not that I look forward to difficulties, but when they come, I know that even in great "evil" good can result.
"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us--they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us." ( Rom. 5:3-5).
Finally, bad things that happen remind us of God's ultimate plan. We can find joy and peace in knowing that we aren't alone, and that we can still turn to God, our "ever-present help in times of trouble" and the true shelter from any storm. His plan is to create a new world in the future that will be free from the tears and death we experience here on earth.
Here's a final word of hope from Revelation 21, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever." (NLT)
Dan originally wrote this article for publication in the Marco Island Sun Times.