“La gente nace sufrir.” This phrase is what my Spanish professor said as he laughed as we handed in our verb conjugation quiz today. (Yes, I had a quiz on the first day of class.) For those of you who don’t understand Spanish, this phrase translates to: the people are born to suffer. He followed this phrase by saying, “But suffering builds character.” He said all of this in good fun, or whatever fun a professor could have by giving a quiz on the first day, but it stuck out to me as more than a joke.
For me, hardships and suffering has always been a difficult subject to place in the realm of faith. While I believe that God has a plan for every person that he puts on this earth, it is hard for me to understand why certain things happen. It’s difficult to understand how a person could endlessly pray, but still lose their loved one, or still not find a way to put food on the table, or still not receive the treatment that they long for. Sometimes life can get you down to the point that you question what the relationship you have with God is even about.
I guess I should pause right there, and give you all a little information about me before I continue. If you didn’t already know, my name is Catherine, and I am studying elementary education and Spanish here at OSU. Naturally, I love working with kids, and I am always striving to learn as much as I can about the world around me. One of the biggest ways that I was able to get involved at my home church, the Okeene First United Methodist Church, was by giving the children’s sermon. Okay, I’ll continue on.
There was a Sunday a few years ago that I was signed up to give the children’s sermon. As I was searching the Internet for something that went with the scriptures of that Sunday, I found an article about why God lets us have bad days. And to make this article even better, it explained everything through Clifford the Big Red Dog! Sadly, when I gave this children sermon, hardly any of the kids knew who Clifford was, which I still can’t believe. Nevertheless, bad days, sufferings, hardships, they all bring us 3 L’s: learn, lesson, and love.
Now I feel like learning and lessons can be put together in one category. So to put sufferings in the category of learning, you would see that God allows things to happen so that we can learn. Whether it’s gaining compassion for other people, learning to trust God, or learning to be patient, God is always giving us opportunities to grow in who we are as people and in our relationship with him. To parallel this to Clifford, there are many adventures that Clifford and his friends embark on, but they don’t always turn out the way they want them too. But Emily Elizabeth always saves the day and helps Clifford to learn and grow.
The toughest part about hardship is grasping how God can love us but let something bad happen to us or the people we love. And as I always ask why, I find this answer to be the simplest and truest: God wants you to grow into a beautiful person. To break this down into Clifford terms, just like Emily Elizabeth’s love for Clifford made him grow to be the biggest dog ever, God’s love for us helps us to grow as well. We become filled with wonderful heavenly blessings that will last forever, not earthly blessings, which fade away. He gives us blessings like being a good friend, being humble and sweet, being kind, loving, compassionate and caring. Those kinds of blessings you can’t buy in a store. You have to become them. And you don’t become those things without God. God gives them to us through quizzes on the first day of class, through bad days, through tests the Monday after spring break, through tough years.
So, with summer ending and classes beginning, we all may find ourselves facing new stresses and maybe some difficult times. So if you didn’t take anything away from this at all, try to take this: “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” (Romans 8:17-18) God is teaching us, and he is always with us, filling us with his love–even when it’s hard to understand. And of course, we’re all in this together. So hold on tight, and take on this semester, (and you know, life in general,) without fear because just like Clifford and his many adventures, we all have a big bowl full of dog treats and love waiting for us when we get home.