Most real wisdom, the deep stuff, is formed in a crucible. It is shaped out of pain. We can know many things – things learned in books, things gleaned from observation or conversation, things fitted together through contemplation. All is good, and all is needed. But rarely does knowledge become wisdom without first passing through fire. It’s suffering that transmutes it. The difference between a scholar and a sage is not how much they know, but how much they’ve been broken.
But there’s a danger. Suffering also embitters. The difference between a sage and a grumbler is not how much they’ve been broken, but how much they’ve found grace in their brokenness. The wisest people I know have been through many hard things. But that’s true also of the most bitter people I know. All that’s made the difference, as far as I can tell, is that the wise keep finding grace, and the bitter keep missing it.
The Bible confirms this. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb. 12:15).
The Bible promises that there is no suffering devoid of grace. There is no pain where grace is absent. There is no loss or mistake where grace does not abound. Grace is everywhere, though sometimes it takes deep searching to see it. I have to choose daily, and then throughout the day, to find grace, and to lay hold of it.
Are you in a crucible? Are you going through something right now that threatens to embitter you?
Just stop. Breathe. Pray. And look around. Do you see it? Some sign of God’s goodness and presence right there, within reach? A cup of hot tea. A patch of sunlight on the floor. A cupboard with food in it. A dog that doesn’t care how messed up you are or how much you’ve messed up. A grandma that loves you.
A God that keeps running to greet you.
Don’t miss it, O wise one.