How Can Pain Grow Our Character?

This week it will have been twelve years since my father passed away from Liver cancer.  I can honestly say there has been no other event in my life to date that has changed me like the day I lost my Dad.  Like many who have lost a loved one, the pain changed me in ways I didn’t expect, I didn’t ask for, or even seek out.  This one event has forced me to engage in pain in ways I could never have imagined.  Now that many years have passed, I’ve been able to look back and study the effects of pain on my life.  While the hurt has been overwhelming at times, I’ve also grown in ways I didn’t expect.  I’ve been changed and shaped in my character.  Maybe you have been too by some great loss or event?   I want you to know that there is hope in desolation.  You won’t feel hopeful in the moment, but I believe there is something greater going on in us.  You are becoming stronger. 


Character growth, it’s what most of us desire to have as we get older.  I don’t think I have ever heard someone say they wished that they would grow up to be an average, unproductive person of society.  People desire to be great people deep down inside. I know it is something I desire to take place in the lives of my children and myself.   Being a person of character may be the most painful process our soul goes through.  Have you ever stopped and wondered, “God, what in the world are you doing with my life right now?”  We may comment on how unfair life is or how it seems we can never get “ahead” in life.    


If you interviewed a hundred people, most would say that they would like to be seen as an honorable person and a person of integrity.  If you then began to list out what it would take to attain such a status, we might say, “No thanks, I’m fine with where I am now!”   We all believe there are no short cuts to having a mature character, yet we continue to look for a path that does not include pain to achieve real integrity.  Have you ever wondered how God redeems and restores our character in pain?  How can our faith grow when we are bombarded with setbacks, hurt, and painful circumstances?   In 1 Peter, we get a glimpse into the effects of trials on our lives. 


1 Peter 1:7

            7 These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 


I’ve been thinking the topic of how pain can grow our character?  I’d like to propose three ways our character grows because of adversity.  I know none of us want to go looking for pain.  However, when it comes, trust that there is something redeemable happening within you.  


How Can Pain Grow Our Character?

  1. Our Character Grows When We Experience A Crisis.


What does a crisis do to our character?  When you and I experience a crisis, we are being tested.  How we react in a crisis is often more important than even solving our crisis.  The crisis cuts through us and gets to the core of our soul and we have the opportunity to take a look inside.  Oftentimes we see what we are really made of.  The observation sometimes isn’t so great. Crisis either drives you closer to God or drives you away from God.  What a crisis reveals is the basis of our foundational beliefs.  


The character trait that God develops in us during a crisis is Faith (James 1:2-4).  What kind of faith do you have?  How do you know that you have faith?  When was the last time that your faith has been truly tested?  Faith stands with our fears and moves forward out of obedience.  Faith is oftentimes uncertain about the upcoming future results but certain of the person on which the faith is based.  Have you ever loss faith in something or someone?  Have you ever experienced despair?  


The opposite response of faith in a crisis would be Doubt.  Doubt creates skepticism, distrust, hesitation, uncertainty and ultimately cynicism.    


Are you currently experiencing a crisis?  Do you cling to faith or doubt.  Sometimes it might be both.   What best fits you?


 How Can Pain Grow Our Character?

  1. Our Character Grows When We Experience Isolation.


Being lonely for some is a great fear.  In a society that is overstimulated with information and “connectivity,” we can live a life of isolation even when there is so much business all around us.   What do we learn when we experience isolation?  We learn that no one or no thing can truly help us and ultimately we are alone.  When we are in isolation, I believe God may be developing our being.  Isolation exposes what is inside of all of us given enough time.  It exposes our fears and how we react in our fears.  It exposes our soul and what is really inside. 


Our soul or heart is the substance of our character.  It is what we are truly made of and our motivations in our daily life.  Being is our source that those who are in relationship with us experience.  It is ONLY out of our being that we can do anything of substance and significance.  When it comes to integrity and character you can ONLY live out of what you already HAVE.  You can’t fake or fabricate a person of character.  You either are or you are not.  How do you know?  It comes out in the pressures and hardships of life and relationships.   


The character trait that God develops in us in isolation is Dependence.  Getting in touch with our helplessness isn’t always a bad thing.  Are you a dependent person?  I realize that in our day and time we worship independence.  You can do life on your own and are considered a success when you do life by pulling up your bootstraps and getting after it.  However, you and I know that we are finite. We are vulnerable. We are in need of a greater, superior being. We need others also.   


The opposite response in isolation is Independence. Independence ultimately creates self-reliance.  When our self-reliance fails, we are overcome with loneliness and experience great anxiety and fear.  We try to force things and make things happen grasping for some type of control. Worry begins to penetrate and spread through our heart.  Despair is experienced in separation.  There is no companionship.  


Which best describes your heart and character in isolation?  Are you prone to dependence or independence? What is it that God may be exposing in you?   


How Can Pain Grow Our Character?

  1. Our Character Grows When We Experience Conflict.


Conflict is probably one of the things or events that most people try to avoid at all costs.  When you and I enter into conflict we become painfully aware of our character, its strengths and weaknesses.  Conflict exposes what is there and also what is missing.  Conflict is the great refiner.  It’s like squeezing a tube of toothpaste and watching what comes out.  There is no time to pretend and no opportunity to fake it.  What is there is there and mostly it is there for all to see.  


How can conflict grow our character? Conflict is used to teach us to surrender. The character trait that God develops in us in conflict is the ability to Surrender. When we are in conflict we have an opportunity to stand on the beliefs that we are right and another person is wrong.  We can choose to not see our part in the conflict at hand or the other person’s viewpoint.   


The improper response to conflict is Defiance.  Do you find yourself in conflict refusing to surrender or give in?  When we are defiant, we are simply unwilling to yield.  There is a stubbornness to change or even engage properly.  Instead we deflect.  Are you constantly fighting back or trying to avoid the reality in you that a conflict is exposing?   When we have a defiant heart in conflict it exposes our immaturity.  Pride comes in and we get very smug and overconfident.  What about you?  Which best describes your character in conflict? 


All of us are on a journey and no one has arrived.  Paul tells us in Romans 5 that we can rejoice in problems because they are for our development: 


Romans 5:3-5

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure. 4 And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.  5 And this expectation will not disappoint us.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.


Today may be a hard day for you.  It might be very discouraging.  I want to encourage you with a different perspective.  There may be some good to discover in your overwhelming circumstances.  Take the risk to see if there is a greater purpose at work in you.  May God draw near to you as you draw near to Him in a crisis, in isolation, and in conflict.


I believe that our best days are before us…not behind us.  We all need a little encouragement, wisdom, and help from time to time.  We can’t accomplish our goals in isolation or always on our own.  We need each other.  Remember, you are not alone. It’s time to thrive.  Let’s do it together.  Click here to set up a Discovery Coaching call.