Recently a friend who has been dealing with a very stubborn form of cancer observed how common it is to hear people say something like, “I have my problems, but they’re not as bad as so-and so’s.” And sometimes, my friend finds herself the “so-and-so” they compare themselves with.
Admittedly, I’ve occasionally said things like that myself. There’s something consoling about the idea that no matter what obstacles we’re facing – health issues, financial problems, family or career challenges – there’s always someone confronting even worse circumstances.
But have you ever wondered, were we to follow this chain of “worse than” to its very end, who is the person that has it so bad he (or she) can’t look to someone else for a measure of consolation?
The truth is, although it may feel somewhat encouraging to recognize our situations could be even worse, whatever difficulty we’re facing at any given time is as tough as it gets. When I was in college, I couldn’t believe the overwhelming pressure of final exams. But when I started working on newspapers, I realized compared to press time deadlines, those exams were like a walk in the park.
Trials and tribulations of life, if we let them, strengthen us and equip us for even greater challenges in the future. It’s similar to exercise: You have to be able to run a mile before you can begin preparing for a marathon. When I started cardiac rehabilitation following surgery more than three years ago, lifting 50 pounds was a struggle. Now I can lift well over 100 pounds in various ways – a 50-pound lift wouldn’t be a strain at all.
In Matthew 6:34 Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow…. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The challenge for us is not to find someone worse off so we can feel better about our present plight, but to persevere through whatever dilemma confronts us.
There are times, no matter where we are in our journey through life, that we conclude, “I can’t do this!” In retrospect, those can prove to be some of the greatest times in our lives, because they afford the opportunity to experience the power of Christ, realizing the truth of His promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).