The Struggle Doesn’t Have to Be in Vain
Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Galatians 3:4
Someone recently asked me how I look back on my own addiction. I had to respond that I’m certainly sorrowful for the pain I caused. I have relationships that will probably never be repaired and even the ones I have repaired still bear the scars of my actions. So, there’s a significant part of me that looks back with regret. There’s another part of me though that can be thankful for my addiction.
I’ve often said that the drug use was only a symptom of a greater life problem – I wanted to live my way, following my nature in all things. In theory, I wanted my life to follow God’s will, but in practicality I followed mine. Before my addiction came along, nothing was going to disrupt that. Addiction was the one huge, obvious disaster that I couldn’t avoid dealing with and it was the trial through which I began to learn faith and obedience.
Scott from 15 years ago never would have been interested in going to jail for a Bible study. I would never have allowed my career to veer towards addiction medicine. I wouldn’t have spent any time or energy trying to help others get sober. So, even though I’m sorrowful over the pain I’ve caused, the struggle hasn’t been in vain. I’m a far better person for having been through it and God has used it to bring me to a place I never would have gotten to otherwise.
It could have gone the other way too though. All the misery could have been in vain, leading only to more addiction, pain, and calamity. We hope that every addiction story has a happy ending, but we know that they don’t. Not everyone gets sober and not everyone finds recovery. I don’t write that to praise me. I’m just pointing out that our struggles can lead to transformation or to more failure – and the way we go depends mainly on our response to those struggles.
Do we struggle in vain? Do they mean nothing except more pain and misery? Or will our struggles lead to transformation, growth, and new life? The answer to those questions is largely up to us. If we refuse to grow and change, we will continue to wallow in our mess, living in shame and guilt. If, however, we use our discomfort to turn us to God, abandoning our old life to pursue him, then we may one day look back with gratitude at the struggle.
Has the suffering been in vain, or has it meant something? The answer is up to us.