Learn from Your Problems
God is with you in the midst of your problems
Doug Britton, MFT
Many years ago God gave a young man named Joseph some amazing dreams—dreams that revealed he would be in a position of authority over his brothers. Later, to Joseph’s dismay, his brothers sold him to slave traders. They in turn sold him to a man named Potiphar.
Working as a slave far from his family and homeland, Joseph was promoted to a position of importance. However, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and then falsely accused him of trying to rape her. Joseph was thrown into prison.
After some time, Joseph earned a position of authority inside the prison, and he eventually interpreted two of Pharaoh’s servants’ dreams. He spent another two years in prison before he was recognized for this amazing feat. Joseph was finally released from prison, became the second-in-command leader of the Egyptian people, and saw his brothers bow before him. More importantly, God used Joseph to prepare Egypt for the coming famine as well as to save his family—including his brothers who had plotted against him (Genesis 37-47).
Joseph’s years of suffering and heartache were not wasted. God used them to strengthen his character and faith. As a result, he was prepared to be used by God in amazing ways.
God has plans for your life, plans that depend on you allowing him to transform you—to change you on the inside. Sometimes transformation comes through reading his word and prayer. Other times it comes through the lessons we learn as we go through hardships.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:28-29)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
What do you think?
1. What does it mean to be transformed or to renew your mind?
2. How can you be transformed by going through hardships?
Potential positive outcomes of hardship and suffering
When we go through suffering or bad times, it’s hard. God understands that, and we read in Scripture about times Jesus himself grieved. As you read this study, I do not want to minimize the pain we go through. However, in spite of the pain and loss, over time we can grow with God’s help. Here are some ways hardships can help us grow:
You can grow in character and hope.
When we face and go through struggles, we learn to know and depend on God in a deeper way.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
You can grow in empathy and understanding of others’ problems.
When we go through struggles of our own, it becomes harder to have a judgmental attitude towards others who are going through struggles. In fact, having gone through something makes you uniquely qualified to help others who are going through the same struggles.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
You can grow in patience.
It’s easy to be impatient, caught up in circumstances of our life. When we go through trying times, we can learn to live in the Spirit, regardless of our circumstances.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. (Psalm 37:7)
You can grow in humility.
It’s easy to become conceited or prideful about our experiences, abilities, or knowledge. If God gives us a “thorn in our flesh,” we tend to depend on him more.
Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. (2 Corinthians 12:7)
Related: What is humility?
You can learn obedience.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
You can overcome sin and live for God.
When we suffer, we can become more aware of the power and consequences of sin and find ourselves more dedicated to living Christ-centered lives.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)
You can learn to trust in God’s power, not your own.
Self-pride can get in our way when we try to serve God. When we go through hard times, we can recognize that we are inadequate on our own and that we need to live in God’s power.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
You can prove your faith.
It’s easy to feel good when life is comfortable. When we go through hard times, we learn to trust God himself, not our circumstances.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Make it personal
3. Review the previous benefits of hardship and suffering. Which points will help you when you go through hard times? Explain your answer.
4. What is one time you grew through hardships? Explain how you grew.
5. What is one hardship you are experiencing now? What is one way you would like to grow in the midst of this hardship?
Learn from your problems
Don’t just go through problems. Think and pray about what happened. Evaluate your words and actions. Ask God if there are lessons you can learn to help you become wiser.
Thank God for the opportunity to grow.
When you experience problems or suffering, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” Or, “How can I grow?” James did not enjoy suffering, yet he learned how to consider (or think about) suffering in a positive way.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Search your heart for sin.
Going through a rough time does not necessarily mean that you sinned, but it may. After all, sins often have negative consequences. If you sin, ask God for forgiveness, then thank him for forgiving you.
Ask God if you set yourself up for a problem.
Sometimes you may help set up problems, but don’t fall into the trap of blaming yourself for everything. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:
- Did I talk disrespectfully or put too much pressure on people?
- Did I offer to do too much, and then say “Poor me” because I had so much to do?
- Did I say “yes” when someone asked me to do something, and then feel taken advantage of?
- Did I complain a lot, and then wonder why people ignored me?
- Did I make a foolish investment?
Ask God to help you understand other people’s words or actions.
- You may have misinterpreted what was said or done.
- The other person may have been super-busy or preoccupied.
- The other person may have had a bad day, be sick, or be tired.
Don’t take people’s words personally—even if their words are intended to hurt you.
When someone says something hurtful, remind yourself that you don’t need to take it personally—even if the words were meant to hurt you. Instead, pray for this person, realizing he or she has an attitude problem and needs God’s help.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)
Related: How to stop taking things personally
Evaluate how you responded to the problem.
Did your words and actions please God? Should you have handled the situation in a different way? Do you need to ask for forgiveness? How would God like you to respond to similar situations in the future?
What do you think?
6. What does it mean to “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2) when you face trials?
7. Do you set yourself up for problems? If so, what lessons can you learn from that?
8. Why don’t we need to take people’s words personally?
Ask God to help you resolve your problems.
In this study, you have been reading how you can grow through problems. In addition to growing, there are steps you may be able to take to resolve problems.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)
1. How did Joseph’s problems prepare him for leadership?
2. What does letting God transform you mean?
3. Review the benefits of hardship and suffering described in this study. Think of three of the benefits that will help you, followed by a brief explanation of how each one will help.
4. Why can you “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2) when you go through a trial?
5. Does considering it pure joy mean that you will feel pure joy? Explain your answer.
6. What is one way you have helped set yourself up for problems in the past? What lessons can you learn from this for the future?
7. Why don’t you need to take people’s words personally—even if their words are intended to hurt you?
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About Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.