The other day, a couple of friends and I were at a skate park in the rougher part of Sacramento having a grand ole time. And about half way through the session, this little kid named James (probably around 7 or 8 years old) shows up wearing basketball shoes with a pretty messed up outdated board that looked like it had been passed down like 3 or 4 times over the course of ten plus years, and starts rolling around with us. This kid was just learning how to ride a skateboard and was full of questions, “Hey guys, how do you roll in? How do make the board come off the ground? Are these good wheels to have?” I thought it was pretty cute and humorous. He was just an innocent little kid that was fascinated with skateboarding and wanted to learn everything he could about it and get good at it.
Then all of a sudden 4 kids from the neighborhood show up to the park just to terrorize. They were all elementary school age, and all had that hood mentality of “the quality of a man is determined by how many people you can beat up and how much of a punk you can be.” They were throwing glass into the middle of the park, talking about who they can beat up, and they didn’t want to move when we told them to so we can try our tricks. It seemed like their whole purpose was to wreak havoc on the world. They kept asking James if they could ride his board and he would let them, but then all of the sudden one of them started punching him for whatever reason and started throwing rocks at him, which made him cry and leave the park for a while. He went and found his dad that was in a different part of the park with his sister. It was one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever witnessed. James was such a sweet kid that just wanted to skate and love people. Luckily we were able to chase the hoodlums off the park, and shortly after James came back and started skating around again. As I was sitting there watching him cruise around the park on this beat up old board having the time of his life. I thought to myself, “man, I have to try and do something for this kid to make up for the agony he just had to endure.” Then it occurred to me that I had a complete board in the trunk of my car that was still in pretty good shape (a lot better shape than that ragged thing he was riding). So I went and got it and asked him to try it out and tell me what he thought of it. After he took a lap around the park, he says to me, “wow, its so good!” I responded, “Rad, you can have it.” As soon as he heard that his face was filled with disbelief and says to me, “no way! are you serious? I’m not letting anyone ride this one, I’m gonna make sure I take good care of it.” And the rest of the time he was there he was just glowing. It was one of the greatest moments I have ever experienced at a skate park. Just seeing how his worst day at a skate park turned into his best day.
As I meditated on this moment, it occurred to me that sometimes in life we go through hard, difficult times, and we may ask ourselves, “how can this be happening to me?” But as I witnessed with James, blessing often comes that turns the sorrow into joy. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Life is full of glimpses of this reality. As we saw with James, his agony lasted but a moment, but the joy that followed will last so much longer that it utterly fails in comparison. Another example of this is that of child birth; a woman has to endure some of the worst pain of their life in order to give birth to a baby, but once they are holding their precious child they immediately forget the terrible suffering they just had to endure to bring him or her into the world. C.S. Lewis says in his book, The Great Divorce, “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory… And that is why…the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.'” This essentially sums up this story, God redeems our sufferings and turns them into a glory. The beauty of knowing God is that even though we suffer and have to go through difficult times, the reality of heaven is that it works backwards and turns those into joys.
As the cliche goes, “no pain, no gain.” Can you think of a time when something good or some kind of progress came out of some suffering you had to endure? How does this shape your thoughts and feelings on suffering? Should it always be something we shake our fists up at God for?