Take a look at any river or stream and you will learn one of the great lessons of life. Rocks that began as jagged, uneven pieces become smooth and polished stones by the pounding water. Even a little trickle can do the trick given enough time. The continuous water slowly but steadily wears down the rough edges, knocks off uneven corners, and smoothes the surface until what was once rough and unrefined now feels as smooth as a silk pillowcase. The water transforms it into a thing of beauty.
Likewise, precious metals like gold often have irregularities and impurities at first. The intense heat of a refiner’s fire separates the impurities from the gold, leaving the gold pure and beautiful.
Like the pounding of the river or the hot refiner’s fire, each of us has challenges and adversity in our lives. These struggles act like sand paper, smoothing our weaknesses, honing our skills, and polishing our personality until we are transformed into something better than we could ever have become on our own.
Russell Miller said, “You don’t learn a lot from the good things that happen to you; you learn a lot from your challenges and struggles.” How right he is. Think about how your life is different because of the challenges that you have encountered along the way. As much as we hate to admit it, challenges breed strength, endurance, and improved opportunities.
I once knew a man who owned a carpet company in the late 70’s. When interest rates skyrocketed, many of the new homes in which he had installed carpet went into foreclosure. This meant that he didn’t get paid for hundreds of jobs and his entire business went bankrupt. He sold his home, regrouped, and started over. Later, he founded a new company, distributing computer components, which became very successful — much more profitable, in fact, than the carpet company ever was. But, if it wasn’t for what seemed at the time to be a devastating loss, he never would have developed the idea for the new company.
Think about this. When you go to someone for advice or sympathy, do you choose someone who never had a challenge in his or her life, whose attitudes and opinions are untried in the world? No, you go to the one who has overcome adversity, learned from challenges, persevered through trial and achieved success. This is the person whose opinion we value.
So, next time something heartbreaking happens to you, take courage in the thought that you, like the pebble in the river, are being honed and smoothed, refined and transformed into something more beautiful, more successful, and more effective than you ever thought possible.