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“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” (Martin Luther King, Jr.).
WHAT OUR FRIENDS KNOW OF US WHILE THE SUN IS SHINING IS ONE THING — WHAT THEY FIND OUT ABOUT US WHEN THE DARKNESS CLOSES IN MAY BE SOMETHING VERY DIFFERENT. It doesn’t take a person of very great character to reflect a bit of glory when there is beauty and brightness all around, but let a person be tested by hardship or pain and then, if there’s no light coming from inside that person’s heart, the darkness will be dark indeed.
Challenges show us our weaknesses. All of us have some of these, of course; there is no use denying that we do. But we may not pay adequate attention to our weaknesses until some crisis makes us aware of them. And to that end, challenges are good for us. Whatever helps us see the areas where we’re vulnerable is a thing to be thankful for. Wise people want to know, as soon as possible, where they need to shore up their defenses, and challenges offer us that opportunity.
But challenges also show us our strengths. Just as we each have our weaknesses, we have our strengths also. And just as challenges force us to look honestly at our weaknesses, the same challenges may surprise us by bringing to light some strengths we didn’t know we had. “Within us all there are wells of thought and dynamos of energy which are not suspected until emergencies arise” (Thomas J. Watson). When we have to take one of life’s hard “exams,” we may not make a perfect score, but often we do better than we ever thought we could.
So, when all is said and done, what’s the main thing that we want from life? Is it simply ease and pleasure? If that’s all we want and we’re unhappy when we get anything else, then we probably have our sights set too low. The fact is, there are several things, such as character growth, that should have a higher priority than ease and pleasure. And if the goodness of something is judged by what it does for our character, we’d have to say that challenges and tests, however difficult or unpleasant, should be placed in the good category.
“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask, but when we are challenged to be what we can be” (Morris Adler).