Robyn Hubbard returns to the blog today to help us all remember how to find joy in our trials. I am so grateful for her willingness to share what God has put on her heart today for us.

My 8 year old daughter asked for a lot of old school board games for Christmas this year – Sorry, Trouble, Battleship, Operation. My husband and I were happy to grant this request so we could retire some of her old boring preschool games that we’d played a million times and relive our childhood through introducing her to the games we loved as kids.

We sat down Christmas Day and decided the first game we had to teach her to play was Operation. We explained in detail how she had to have a steady hand so she could reach into the openings and pull out the body parts without touching the sides. If the tweezers touched the sides, it would buzz, the nose would light up, and her turn would be over. She was up for the challenge.

As we were removing the plastic from the box I noticed in big letters on the front, “Large openings with easy-grab pieces!” I didn’t think too much of it until we started playing. Aly carefully reached her tweezers inside the opening. We anxiously awaited that buzzing sound that would send us into certain hysterics, but the buzzing sound never came. Turn after turn, we reached into the opening and pulled out each ailment one by one. Finally, all the pieces were removed, all the turns had been taken, and we were all “winners”.

What a disappointment. No buzzing. No lit up nose. No challenge. No effort. Nothing. It was just too easy.

We thought we’d make one more attempt and all try it with our left hands. This would liven it up for sure! But the openings were just too large. The second game ended the same way the first did. Again, we were all “winners”.

We assured Aly that it really was a challenging game back in the 80s as we quickly placed the pieces back into the box. We put the game on the shelf and moved onto a much more competitive game of Sorry.

My mind kept going back to that game throughout the day. I was frustrated by the realization of one more example of this idea that “everyone gets a trophy”. This attempt at making sure our children are always happy and never experience disappointment had now even spilled over into the world of board games. But then I started thinking that there’s more to learn from this dumbed-down version of the classic game that I used to love so much.

It had just been a little over two months since I had overcome the biggest challenge of my life and our broken marriage had been put back together. Because of God’s grace that helped me be obedient, trust Him, and persevere, I was reaping the benefits. Donny and I held each other a little tighter, spoke a little softer, and looked at each other in a brand new way. My very biggest trial had added so much fullness to my life. Those smaller openings might have made the game more difficult, but they also made us laugh until we cried. Our separation was unbelievably hard, but eventually brought us closer as a family and produced so much joy.

Hard times are just that. Hard. We dread them. We avoid them at all costs. We pity those we watch go through them. We worry we might be next.

But take just a second to think of the strongest person you know. The person you would go to for prayer or advice or strength when you need it. The person who seems to know something the rest of us don’t. The person whose wisdom you are drawn to. I am willing to bet our board game collection that this person has been through a terrible trial, or maybe even many of them. Trials build character. They challenge us, strengthen us, and push us to become the greatest versions of ourselves. They bring us closer to the people who walk through them with us. They force us to seek answers. They draw us closer to God than we could ever be without them.

Trials are essential to growing into the people God has called us to be. How can we help others if we’ve never needed help? How can we encourage others by sharing our stories if there is no story to share? How can we understand the importance of giving to others if we’ve never been in need? How can we experience true joy if we’ve never experienced true pain?

Don’t give up when your openings seem too small and you just can’t seem to grab that funny bone. Grip those tweezers a little more tightly. Ask God to make your hand a little more steady. Persevere. If life wasn’t so challenging, it wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding.

What trials are you facing today? What have you learned from the challenges you have overcome in your life that you could use to minister to others? Embrace your messy, imperfect, hard life. Try to replace that terrible, burning “why me?” question with a faith that God knows the answer and that’s more than enough. You might not see it yet, but there is joy to be found in your trial.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith provides perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”James 1:2-4