This is the opening line from the epic novel “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. I think we can all relate to the fact that life is filled with both joy and hardships. Our joys are good to reminisce about, but our hardships can be painful to reflect upon. It is in our hardships that we are stretched to become great. We must remember that the pain of our past is the catalyst to experiencing joy in the future. Pain is a gift from God and it exists to help us become who we were created to be. Becoming who God created us to be is where true joy and fulfillment is found. As I get older, I become more retrospective about the past and more introspective about the future. I sometimes ask myself: “What were the hard times I’ve experienced over the last 40 years, and how will those experiences help me to become who God created me to be?”
We all need reminders in our life in order to maintain perspective about where we have been and where we are going. A well-known pastor talked about how he filled several glass jars up with marbles, and placed them on the mantel of his fireplace. Each jar was representative of each person in his immediate family. Each marble in the jar symbolized 1 month of life that was yet to be lived (with a 70 year life expectancy). Each month, a marble was removed from the jar as a visible reminder that our life is passing and it will someday end. Reminders like this can help us gain perspective about our future.
God continually reminds us in the bible how the pain of our past is not there to fill us with shame, but to give us a future that is filled with hope. Look at what the first believers in the early church said in Romans 5:3-5 “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
God sovereignly, graciously, and lovingly uses our pain, our rebellion, the sinful acts of others, and the attacks of the devil, to conform us into the image of Jesus. He does this when we recognize it, and especially when we don’t recognize it. He does this in the best of times, and in the worst of times. He is continually conforming His kids into a beautiful tapestry that will be a bright light in a dark world. Hang on, and rest in God if you are struggling. He will give you the grace, peace, and strength needed, just at the right time.