By Wendy Anne Clark
Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
Perseverance must finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.
I teach college writing classes and encourage my students to incorporate their own stories of their experiences and observations into their writing. In demonstrating this skill, I often share many of my own stories as they relate to the things we are reading about or discussing. Recently, one student said to me, “Wow! You’ve had a hard life!” He was serious, and his comment stopped me short.
I don’t think of myself as having had a hard life. In fact, I think of my life as full of amazing blessings. Sometimes I’ve even thought that maybe I have too many blessings, more than my fair share. The student’s comment caused me to reflect on the stories I’ve told over the course of the semester. What would have given the student the idea that I’ve had a difficult life?
I know that I told of how my family didn’t have much money when I was growing up and how we learned to do without many things that some people think of as “necessities.” I told of how my family’s house was deliberately set on fire one year on Easter Sunday while we were at church. As far as we know, the culprit was never found.
I told of how I had cancer when my two oldest children were still babies and some of the experiences related to having a serious illness.
I told of how at Christmas one year, burglars broke into our house and sat in our living room opening Christmas presents and of what it was like to come home to find someone had been in our home.
I guess that could all sound pretty bad, couldn’t it? Then why is it that when I look back, I see so much more?
I see how much love and fun my family had together when I was growing up. No, we didn’t have a lot, but we enjoyed each other (and still do), and my parents stayed together (and are still together). Not too many of my students can claim the same.
I look back and see that though we lost nearly everything in that fire, we didn’t have much to begin with, and families from our church gave us amazing gifts of furniture and clothes and everything else we needed. I recall that for the first time in my life I had a bedroom set that matched: a dresser, side table, bed—amazing and beautiful.
I look back and see how though I was very sick for a time, I’ve been well for so much longer. Treatment went exactly as planned, right on schedule, which I’m told is rare. I didn’t have surgeries or any serious setbacks, and I had another child a few years later, something that I was told would be unlikely.
I see how when burglars broke in and stole our Christmas presents (as well as some that family members had sent ahead for a family gathering), friends gave us things to help replace what was missing. Students at the college where I teach bought gifts for my family and left them for me on my front porch. My husband’s boss flew us down to Southern California for an amazing Christmas party. My family still showed up to celebrate Christmas and we still had a great time together.
And though the difficult times haven’t ended, and my husband and I have experienced some devastating financial setbacks, I am so thankful to have a loving, kind, generous, funny, faithful, hard-working husband who is my true friend. I have two amazing teenage daughters who love and serve God with their lives—something I’ve prayed fervently for since they were young. I have a young daughter who is bright, funny, and soaking up the Bible and what it means to serve Jesus.
I don’t know if my life is more blessed than yours, but I know that my life is greatly blessed. I do know that I have experienced difficult times in my life. I don’t believe anyone really makes it through life without such times, but we all get to choose what we see–how we remember.
I could choose to look back and remember the pain, the hurt, the fear, the loss, but instead I choose to look back and reflect on all of the blessings that came in the midst of all I the hard times.
I choose joy.