Transforming Our Trials Into Tools

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

An image of the inside of a bright blue geode, the colors layered.

Author and journalist Thomas Friedman has a stock answer when anyone asks him to name his favorite country. Taiwan, he says. But why?

“Because Taiwan is a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea with no natural resources to live off of—it even has to import sand and gravel from China for construction—yet it has the fourth-largest financial reserves in the world.”1

Friedman’s point is that with few natural resources to rely on, the Taiwanese have been forced to invest in the one renewable resource they do have—their people. They have invested their capital in developing a culture and educational system that enables them to succeed.

To bolster the notion that a nation’s financial success develops in indirect proportion to its supply of natural resources, Friedman cites a recent study indicating a negative correlation between a country’s ability to extract wealth from natural resources and the achievement scores of its high school students.

The man who oversaw the standardized exams given students whose scores were examined in the study Friedman cites, made this intriguing remark:

“As the Bible notes, Moses arduously led the Jews for 40 years through the desert—just to bring them to the only country in the Middle East that had no oil. But Moses may have gotten it right, after all. Today, Israel has one of the most innovative economies, and its population enjoys a standard of living most of the oil-rich countries in the region are not able to offer.”2

What does any of this have to do with God’s creativity, his ability to bring something out of nothing? You could think of it like this. Though God has unlimited resources with which to bless his people, his aim isn’t to make our lives easy but to make our lives good. Snapping his fingers and solving all our problems would make belonging to him feel like winning the lottery. But life with God rarely feels like that.

Instead of handing us one easy win after another, he builds virtue within us by using our circumstances to make us stronger. That’s why Paul could encourage the Romans, saying, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4).

God does his most creative work within the hearts of those who belong to him, transforming our difficulties into tools he can use for our growth.

What problems are you facing right now? Ask the God who made you to use his creative power to advance his work within you. Trust him and he will do it.

1. Thomas L. Friedman, “Pass the Books, Hold the Oil." The New York Times, March 10, 2012, SR1.

2. Ibid.





Originally published April 10, 2019.