My friends used to joke that I shouldn't be left alone, because strange things happen. A few examples: I've been alone on the farm when the cattle got out, and when the neighbour's bull broke through the fence to fight with our bull. I've been dropped off alone in a strange city with no key to get into my new apartment. I've had a hot water tank blow at night when I was the only one in the house.When our children were small, every time Tim was gone for an extended time, one of the kids would throw up. (I clearly remember one evening Tim had left, the kids were asleep, and I thought I was clear. Then the cat walked up to me and barfed.) Thankfully every situation resolved well. I learned to handle problems on my own and now I have funny stories to tell. In retrospect, I am thankful for those experiences because they helped me grow in confidence.
Reading Romans 5 reminded me of my "don't leave me alone" stories. Sometimes, in the midst of dealing with things, I wondered what God was preparing me for next. Paul was dealing with much more serious circumstances when he wrote; "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope." How can he be so relentlessly positive in the face of so many hard things? Somehow Paul is able to find the good in the situation. He is confident in God and is able to look at hardship as times of growth.
What a contrast the Romans story is to the grumbling in the Exodus story! In this one, the people are facing hardships in the desert and their attitudes are sour. They've forgotten the miraculous escape across the sea (chapter 14). They've forgotten how God gave them water at Marah (15:22-25). They've forgotten the manna and quail (chapter 16) and now they are complaining bitterly against Moses because, once again, they are thirsty and lacking in faith. Moses complains; "what am I to do with these people?" (17:4).
In Romans, the hardships push people to rely on God. They remain positive and get the best out of their situation because they really believe God is in control. In Exodus, in spite of repeated miraculous help, the people continue to whine. I know which group I'd rather be part of!
A number of years ago, I made several visits to a woman who was dying of cancer. She would openly share her grief, cry, and then we'd talk about other things. She had made a conscious decision to be positive, to live into every moment she had left. She was a joy to be with and I left those visits feeling blessed and encouraged by her. Because of her example, and stories like these in Romans and Exodus, I will strive to choose the relentlessly positive attitude!
Hardship is part of life. We all face difficult things, some more than others. A positive attitude and trust in God's love allows people to learn and grow and gain from those hard times.