Over ten years ago when we were in the middle of our first adoption, my husband Sam was diagnosed with cancer.
In one day, my whole life fell apart. My husband was fighting for his life. Our adoption was put on hold indefinitely. Instead of having a family, I could only foresee a future where I might end up alone. I stood in a dark tunnel, unable to see any good that this trial could produce.
Instead of asking the right questions, I asked the toxic one: “Why me?”
It wasn’t until months later that I was able to see some meaning in the midst of the mess. Our difficult season led us to adopt our daughter and later, our son. It radically changed our family. Caring for my husband was a humbling lesson in servanthood. There has been so much good out of the bad, I am amazed at how God can work awful things out for good, even when circumstances seem hopeless.
Recently I heard Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, talk about a time when he broke his leg and was forced to reorient his whole life.
Instead of asking “Why me?” he learned to ask the question, “What has this experience made possible?”
This question isn’t something to ask those in the midst of fresh pain. However, for those who are ready, this question opens the door to see that many circumstances can be redeemed when we are looking for the treasures in the midst of trials.
These are the hidden treasures found in suffering—the important lessons we learn in dark times that teach us something we would not have known otherwise. These gifts of brokenness offer us a perspective on life that is deeper and richer as a result.
4 Things I’ve Learned From Loss
1. Trials teach us to slow down.
Trials force us to reorient our schedules. Adjust priorities. We can’t do a thousand things. We can’t even do 10 things. We don’t hurry through life when we understand the value of it. We say no to things we would have said yes to before. We make time for the things and people who are important to us.
2. We focus on what really matters.
We don’t sleepwalk through life when we’ve had a brush with death. Trials help us not to take people for granted. We sift our priorities through a fine sieve and find that only the important things make it through. Life is pared down to what is essential.
3. Our relationship with God has the potential to grow more during times of trial.
Trials offer us the chance to grow closer to God. We can’t have a lukewarm faith in suffering. We either grow towards or away from God.
As Tim Keller teaches, “As I took up life as a minister, I tried to understand why so many people resisted and rejected God. I soon realized that perhaps that main reason was affliction and suffering. But at the same time, I learned that just as many people find God through affliction and suffering. They find that adversity moves them toward God rather than away. When pain and suffering come upon us, we finally see not only that we are not in control of our lives, but that we never were.”
Once you learn to love God not for what he can give you, but because you want to serve him at no gain to yourself, you find a depth and richness in your relationship with Christ. You learn to depend on him alone. As Keller says, “you don’t really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”
4. His plan is sometimes revealed through trials.
People who go through suffering often seem to have a better grasp of what their purpose in life is. When all the unimportant stuff is stripped away, we find our true north.
In 2005, we planned to adopt a baby from South Korea. But after Sam was diagnosed with cancer, we learned it would be difficult to continue with a Korean adoption. For us, it didn’t matter where we adopted from, we just wanted a child. Our new path led us to domestic adoption and ultimately, our daughter and son. If we hadn’t gone through this trial, we would not have the family we do today.
Trials often lead us down new paths—ones we never planned, meeting people we would never have encountered otherwise. These opportunities offer new possibilities for major life impact—through new relationships, refocused priorities, and open doors.
If we remain open to finding treasures in the trials, we will experience beauty through our brokenness. We will find redemption in our circumstances.