From the Archives

The Southern Democrat, November 14, 1957

Hardships are not all stumbling blocks
by Dr. Lelias E. Kirby

Why do we parents persist in standing as a buffer between our children and the inevitable problems of life? It is human, I suppose, for us to plan for our children a smoother path than we have trod. Try to picture what you would be today had you been granted every childish wish without one struggle or disappointment.

Neither the Bible nor history, so far as I know, has recorded one great leader who did not attain that reputation by overcoming hardships.

Life is an endless chain of conflicting emotions and events – sadness, joy, disappointments, thrills, success, and failure. The only way we can differentiate one from the other is by comparison. How would we know sugar was sweet if we had never tasted anything bitter? How would we know ice was cold if we had never touched anything hot, and how would we know the sun shines brightly if we had never witnessed a dark night?

Just as the hard bumps and bruises in practice before a game prepare a football player to win, so are the hardships of life like a grindstone, polishing and tempering us to a sharp, shiny instrument of service.

Some people think of common clay as nasty, sticky mud on the shoes; some think of it as pretty smooth brick to build a cathedral. God further dignified it when he made man from clay.

Hardship can be changed from an hour of dark despair to one of brilliant light. I can’t think of a more unpleasant task or a darker place than cleaning out a deep well into which a frog had fallen and died, making the water unusable. (Don’t say this is only a figure of speech. I have had this task to perform.) But I could look up from the bottom of the well and from the abyss of darkness see the twinkling stars even though it were midday.

Sometimes our darkest hours, our deepest sorrows and hardships, are polishing us to a sharp, shiny brightness to light the pathway for our stumbling feet as well as for those who may be following us.

We have no promise that to be a Christian is to be free from problems and hardships; it does not make us immune to sickness, accidents, or death. It only gives us strength to overcome some and endure those we can’t overcome, and in so doing we find joy and comfort in making our problems into stepping stones, not stumbling blocks.

Guide our children, yes; assist them, yes; shine a light to prevent their stumbling, yes; but never rob them of the elements of life they must have to step up and not stumble when the going is uphill.