Not long ago, I was sharing with someone how hardship had shaped me. They, in turn, spoke of the wisdom they had gleaned from one of their toughest seasons of life. It was a conversation where we were both in agreement that on the other side of our trials we found great blessings in the forms of maturity, personal growth and an unshakable knowledge of the goodness of God.

Sometimes this type of a chat will lead to a question I’ve been asked, and have asked myself.

Was it worth it?

In essence, is suffering and heartache a fair trade for the enrichment of our souls?

Anytime this question is posed, my gut reaction is a definite no. Surprised?

Being real and honest instead of giving the answer that is “expected,” I can say without hesitation that had I been given the choice, I would have chosen miraculous healing for my late husband. The grieving mother would have given anything to impart life to her stillborn. The shattered divorcee would have opted for happily-ever-after in a heartbeat. And so on, and so on.

Does this make us shallow? Should we value personal growth at any cost?

These are the question that inevitably come after the gut reaction. And, it’s also when things get less concrete. You see, the longer I mull it over, the more I realize “Was it worth it?” is a very unfair question to ask.

I say this because of 2 reasons:

  1. After years of sifting through emotions and intense seasons of grief and following a million rabbit trails that all seem to be merely different forms of the word “why,” I’ve come to realize there are things in life we simply must endure because we live in a fallen, sin saturated world.
  2. If wisdom and deeper faith were purchased by suffering, everyone who has suffered would be bettered by it. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Pain leaves some more bitter than better.

From everything I’ve read about God in the Bible, I’m convinced His heart breaks for us. Imagine how painful it is for Him to see the world and the people He perfectly created be so affected by the sin He warns us against.

Those blessings we find on the other side of pain? They are gifts. They aren’t something earned. Rather, they are proof that God is walking alongside us, supporting us through the valleys filled with shadows and pain.

When our free will has landed us in barren wastelands -whether our own making or the consequences of someone else- God is still there offering us bread (John 6:35) and water (John 4:14), sustaining us so we can press on. And He is never going to leave. (Deut. 31:6)

Hardship in this life is pretty much a guarantee. Being better for it is not. It’s a choice.

It’s not easy, but when we look past the pain, we see the presence of God. And when we see Him there beside us, “Was it worth it?” fades away. What’s left instead is a heart of worship for the loving God who never stops asking us to let Him turn our burdens into blessings!


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