Do you ever feel like you’re playing the game “whack-a-mole” in life?
Before you have time to catch your breath from knocking out an obstacle, another shows up . . .
. . . and another
. . . and another
. . . and then three more at the same time.
The following story caused me to pause, to reflect, and to consider looking at day-to-day life from a different perspective. I hope it does that for you as well.
It was late in the afternoon when the wise mother heard her daughter come into the house. She knew her daughter was struggling as a new mother and decided to share some timeless wisdom that had helped her through many difficult seasons.
The wise mother was preparing dinner when her daughter walked into the kitchen. She sat down at the kitchen table and began to cry. As the tears slowed, she shared how exhausted and discouraged she had become and questioned her ability to endure. The wise mother listened with great empathy, recalling the many challenges she had encountered over the years.
When things got quiet, the wise mother pulled three cooking pots from under the counter. She filled each one with a few cups of water. In one pot, she placed a few carrots, in the second pot she carefully put a few eggs, and in the third, she poured in some fresh coffee grounds.
She filled each pot with the same amount of water and turned up the heat as high as it would go.
About twenty minutes passed, and each pot was boiling to the very top.
Then, the wise mother turned off the burners allowing the boiling water to settle and cool. She then asked her daughter to put the carrots in one bowl, the eggs in another, and the coffee grounds remained in the pot they were put in.
The wise mother asked her daughter to put the carrots in another bowl. They were warm to the touch and soft.
She then had her put the eggs in another bowl; they were now hard and thick.
The third pot containing the coffee grounds was set next to the other two bowls.
The wise mother asked the daughter to pick up the carrots. They had gone into the pot rigid and crisp, but after boiling the texture was mushy and limp.
The eggs were fragile and had to be carefully handled going into the pot. The daughter noted that coming out of the pot the eggs were unbreakable. Even after peeling back the thin outer shell, it was impossible to get to the yolk because the outer layer was inflexible and tough.
She then had the daughter lean over the bowl containing the coffee grounds, allowing the rich aroma of freshly cooked coffee to fill the air.
The wise mother poured two cups from the pot that held the freshly brewed coffee. As they sat together sipping from their cups, the wise mother spoke softly.
“Each pot contained the same amount of water and heat, yet the only difference was what I put into the water. As you noticed, everything about the carrots, eggs, and coffee grounds changed after enduring the heat.” The daughter listened carefully as she sipped the warm coffee.
“The boiling water is similar to what Jesus calls ‘fiery ordeals’ in Scripture. On the rugged road of life this side of heaven every person experiences challenges and/or seasons of time that make no human sense. Things appear hopeless. However, as the ‘fiery ordeals’ are allowed, what is inside of us changes. There is a reason and purpose that we can’t see when the heat is so great. My dear, you are no different. You may be asking
The heat of today is revealing what you are made of and what the Lord may be ‘burning’ out of you.”
The wise mother reached for her Bible and opened it to two specific passages. The pages were wrinkled and stained from her own years of suffering. She explained to her daughter that the book of James was written by the half-brother of Jesus, named James. It took James a while to come around and believe his half-brother wasn’t crazy and was indeed the Son of God. In the book titled after his name, James 1:2-4 says:
“When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.“ (NLV)
She then turned a few pages to the book of First Peter. She explained that Peter wrote two letters, First and Second Peter, in the New Testament, to those enduring severe persecution throughout the Roman empire. At the time, Nero was the reigning king. To this day, Nero continues to be known as one of the most wicked, abhorrently twisted emperors of Rome. Peter’s desire was to remind those who were suffering that their hardships were for a greater purpose. He wrote the following in 1 Peter 1:6-7:
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold-though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (NLV)
As they finished the last sips of coffee, the wise mother looked deeply into her daughter’s eyes, which now appeared more hopeful and calmer. While nothing about the daughter’s circumstances had changed, her perspective had shifted. A change in the way we view life and all that happens often changes the quality and fulfillment of our lives.
In closing, how will you respond to life’s obstacles? As you endure the “fiery ordeals” that are promised to come, what do you want the outcome to be . . . like the carrots, the eggs, or the coffee? The choice is yours to ponder.
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In When Life Isn't Fair: What They Didn't Tell Us in Sunday School, Colleen Swindoll Thompson weaves together biblical truth, practicality, and her own growth experiences as a mother of a son with special needs. She writes with raw honesty about her personal crisis of faith as well as the hardship and humor that come with learning to trust God through difficult times.