The joy of hard times? Were you dropped on your head when you young or what Neil? Actually, that did happen once, but that is a story for a different time. You might think the idea of hard times containing any amount of joy is a crazy notion, but just a little reflection can tell us there is a great deal of truth in that idea.
As the picture with the great philosopher, Winnie-the-Pooh shows us, one of the way hard times bring us joy is the revealing of true friends. How many times have you faced a challenging situation, only to receive an act of kindness from a friend that was completely unexpected and overwhelmingly gracious? It has been my good fortune to experience more of those than I can count. You may know that you have a good friend, but in challenging times we have the ability to feel that we have a good friend.
The revelation of true friends, although one of my favorite, is not the only gift of joy hard times give us. There are others that we need to appreciate. One of them is the gift of resilience. If someone said they consider you a resilient person, would that not be a good compliment? Yet, if we were to think about it, how could one become resilient without facing a good deal of hard times and surviving them? How resilient would you be if everything was provided for you? If you never had to withstand any of the storms of life, how strong would your character be? Many of you might be mumbling under your breath, “Keep your resilience! I don’t want anymore challenges.” I can understand that. It is never a good feeling to have life throw something at us that we were truly not expecting, but that does not change the fact that it contains something that is helpful.
Which brings us to the last gift that hard times bring us – manure! You may be wondering what the product that comes out of the wrong end of an animal has anything to do with our life and our suffering? Plenty! There are things that happen in life that happen to us that are a complete pile of…well…let us say manure to keep the censors happy. Much like the organic product itself, these life problems stink and we wish they were not a part of our lives. That does not mean we cannot put this to work for us. One of the main uses of manure is for fertilizer. The same is true of the manure in our lives. Our challenges, our set backs and all of the manure type events in our lives can either make our life stink, or we can use it to grow some wonderful blessings. A seed that is buried in the ground and covered in…manure, which can be how our lives feel at certain points, grows into a tough and sturdy plant. Let the manure in our life do the same for us.
Hard times never feel good and it is my sincere wish that all of you never experience more hard times than can be helped. As much as I wish that, we are all bound to experience some times that really challenge our ability to smile. It is that deep knowing and understanding that even in the darkest of times there is light to be found, that can keep us moving forward. Look for the gifts in the hard times my friends. Notice the friends that reach out and help. Feel the strength of character and resilience you are building by just withstanding the storm. Use all of the manure situations in life as fertilizer and grow blessings out of the dung that life throws at us.