(Previously submitted to Proverbs31.org)
Romans 5:3-4 “3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (NIV)
When I was a little girl, I was extremely shy. My parents were part of a small a cappella singing group, and the five families of that group would travel from town to town together while the adults performed in churches. Every once in a while, my mom would say how much she would like for me to join her on stage to sing. Just the thought of it would send me running away in tears! I couldn’t bear to imagine having all those people look at me! And now, here I am, a member of a famous family, speaking and singing all over the country. Isn’t it amazing what God can do?!
Now that I have my own little girl, Mia, who is twelve years old, I see so many things in her life that are far different from my own. She was born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate and has been through multiple facial surgeries. You might think that she would be pretty shy as well. You would be wrong. She is outgoing, social, loves to sing on stage and knows no strangers. Even with all of the physical suffering she has endured, she has a positive outlook on her life.
Last summer she underwent her seventh operation for her cleft. It was more extensive than we were previously told it would be, so we were all a little disappointed with having to go through another full-fledged recovery, especially when Mia’s middle-school session at Camp Ch-Yo-Ca, our local Christian youth camp, started that next week. However, on Day 5 of her recovery, she announced to me that she was feeling great and really wanted to go see her friends at camp. This concerned me because her face was still extremely swollen from surgery, so much so that she had two black eyes and still could not open her mouth much to talk.
I cautioned her, “Mia, since you are still very swollen, people are probably going to point at you, stare at you and probably whisper to each other.”
Mia cocked her head, looked at me and said, “It’s a Christian camp, People! Besides, I look a whole lot better than I did two days ago.”
Well, I couldn’t argue with her there. She obviously was prepared for what I was anticipating to be the horrors of Middle-School camp. I mean, we all remember Middle School, right? It’s bad enough when you’re completely healthy! As much as my protective instincts were fighting this, my heart could not deny her another missed day at one of her most beloved places on earth with her BFF’s. Yes, there was pointing. Yes, there was whispering. Yes, there was staring. But Mia never waivered and was determined to soak up every moment she could that night. I was certainly not as strong as she was that evening as I watched her in amazement from behind with tears streaming down my face.
The staff were astonished that she was there, too, and that she wanted to participate in as many of the activities that she physically could. One staff member that night said to me, “Man, that kid has character!”
Paul tells us in Romans that the way to have character starts with suffering. Well, great! I really didn’t want to go through hard times, Paul. Isn’t there any other way to get character? Something easy?
That’s not what Paul says. He says that suffering produces perseverance. I see that consistently with Mia. She doesn’t let her suffering take hold of her life. She pushes through, determined that her condition is not going to rob her of the good things in life. Obviously, she has to work a lot harder to accomplish some of those things, so she does.
That perseverance produces her character. One of the definitions of character are “qualities of honesty, courage and the like; integrity” (dictionary.com). Courage is undeniably one of Mia’s characteristics. She was fully aware of what other kids were going to think about her, but her desire to participate won out over her fear of other people.
And that character produces hope, the hope we find in Christ Jesus. That’s the hope he gave us when he died and rose from his grave three days later. We, too, can have a new body, one that will live eternally with our Father in heaven. It will be a body free from physical suffering, free from physical trauma, free from heartache and disappointment. Hope! We can all have it. And we can all share it.
Mia wrote a speech that she gives when she travels and makes appearances with her daddy and me. I’d like to share with you her last few lines:
“I hope I can grow up spreading the love of Jesus to lots of people so they can go to heaven with us. My favorite verse is Psalm 46:10, which says, “Be still, and know that I am God!” I like this verse because whenever I feel sad or have struggles, I know that God is bigger than all of that. And He is bigger than any of your struggles, too. And don’t forget that.”
Ask someone today to tell you what one of your strongest positive characteristics are. Then ask them to share with you why they chose that one. Thank God for developing that characteristic in you and ask Him to use you to give hope to others.