The spring was different too. The azaleas bloomed two months later, and all at the same time, so profusely you couldn’t even see the branches. The blueberries had more fruit on them than any time in the five years past. The hostas not only came up again but multiplied, sending up four plants where each one plant sat the year before. The spring wildflowers were beautiful, turning fields first into blankets of blue and lavender, then red and maroon, and finally pink and white. The oak pollen fell so thickly the lawn looked like wall to wall brown carpeting. And the garden produced better than it had in years.
I wondered, could one thing have to do with the other? Could a long, hard winter be the cause of good crops and beautiful flowers in the spring?
And they arrested [Peter and John] and put them in custody until the next day because it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed and the number of men came to about five thousand, Acts 4:3,4. That is not the only case in the New Testament where rapid growth of the kingdom followed hard on the heels of persecution. A long hard winter of trial always seemed to make for a springtime of growth among God’s people.
Then there is the personal aspect. I have seen so many times how a personal trial has led to spiritual growth in a Christian. I have experienced it myself. Something about trial inures us to the pains that might otherwise cost us our souls. We grow stronger little by little, gradually learning the lessons of faith, endurance and strength in the service of God.
That may be why I cringe when I see a young mother turn every little scrape on the knee or cut on the finger into a life-threatening crisis worthy of the loudest wails, instead of helping her child learn to laugh it off. I have seen too many of those children grow into men and women who complain about everything that does not go their way. If it’s okay to whine and cry like the world is ending when you fall and skin your knees, why isn’t it okay to scream at other drivers who get in your way? If it’s okay to pout and mope when you don’t get to play your favorite video game, why isn’t it okay to complain long and loud when the boss asks you to work overtime? If it’s okay to pitch a fit when some mean adult tells you to straighten up, why isn’t it okay to stand in the parking lot complaining about the church, the preachers, the elders, and anyone else who doesn’t see things your way?
God needs people who are strong, who can take pain and suffering for His sake, who understand that their way doesn’t really matter if it is not His way, and that the good of the kingdom and its mission may have nothing to do with them having an easy, perfect life here in this world, but everything to do with a perfect life in the next.
Just as with everything else, our culture is affecting us. The strong silent type who can take the worst the world has to offer and keep going is no longer the hero. Instead we reward jerks and boors and idolize intemperance. Prodigality and lavish lifestyles are our measure of success; striking back is our measure of character, and throwing tantrums is our measure of strength.
I see a day coming when the church will once again be in the middle of a long, hard winter of persecution. The way we are going we may not survive it at all, let alone have a bountiful spring, because trials and persecution only work to build strength when you learn from them. They only produce character when you have the toughness to take the bad with the good without whining about it.
What kind of spring will you have next year?
And not only so but we rejoice in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation works steadfastness; and steadfastness approvedness; and approvedness hope; and hope puts not to shame, because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us, Rom 5:3-5.