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Worth the pain
Amber Albee Swenson
by Amber Albee Swenson
January 8, 2020

Last week lots of people were putting their 2019 recap on social media. When I think of 2019, a C.S. Lewis quote comes to mind: “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

Here are seven of the lessons I learned in 2019:

  1. Nobody’s journey is the same. Two people with cancer or money trouble or work stress can have vastly different experiences. I’ve learned the value of empathy. Those who’ve met me in the depths of despair with a hug or word of encouragement are indelibly grafted in my memory.
  2. Gratitude changes everything. In every circumstance we can complain or thank God. When I choose worship over grumbling, I see the ways God is at work, even when things aren’t the way I had hoped. Added bonus: Those around me don’t have to hear my complaints!
  3. Forgiveness is a process. I’ve learned to embrace the process. When the pain creeps in, I run back to God and ask (again) for healing. This journey has taught me more about my own failings and the love of God than ten years without conflict.
  4. Having three teens has taught me the importance of praying, praying, and then praying some more. So many things are out of my control, but God can change the circumstances, and he invites us to pray. Win-win.
  5. The apostle Paul was right. Contentment isn’t based on circumstances. It’s realizing God is with you regardless of the circumstances.
  6. You always have a choice. Sometimes the best choice is the thing you fear the most. I’ve learned to hold myself to the highest standard and make the best choice, even if it means facing my fears.
  7. It doesn’t take much—a text, a call, a hug, an arm squeeze—to make a person feel loved. It also doesn’t take much—avoidance, a scowl, a cruel word, gossip, criticism—to make a person feel hated. I’m learning to be intentional about love with everyone, everywhere.

Romans 5:3,4 says this: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

If your 2019 had its share of suffering, eagerly watch with me for the fruit that comes after the pruning. It will make the tough lessons from last year worth the pain.