It is told that in ancient times, to test the character of his citizens, a king had a boulder placed in the middle of a road. Then, he hid himself and watched to see if anyone had enough initiative of will and goodness of heart to remove the huge rock that was an onerous obstacle to the travelers' progress.
Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many complained and loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. They only saw an obstacle, not an opportunity to help others.
Then a poor but honest peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.
The peasant learned what many others have never understood. Every obstacle on life's pathway is a test of character that presents an opportunity to improve one's condition. Will we apply ourselves to see opportunities rather than obstacles? Helen Keller once said, "There would be no bravery or patience in life if all were only unbroken ease and comfort." In Arizona, we know that "all sunshine and no rain makes a desert." And the country music song says, "We have to stand some storms before we can see a rainbow." Each "affliction" has an opportunity to learn God's lesson for us.
We should take to heart the teaching of Scripture: "We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:3-5). God looks down from heaven and knows all about the obstacles we face that He has allowed in this fallen world. Those trying pressures of difficult circumstances will either force us to become bitter or better. They can be defining moments of constructing our character, for we will either make good and grow stronger or make an excuse and remain an infantile character. When we exercise our faith muscles, we develop "perseverance" to stick to the right path by overcoming our obstacles. When we pass God's test and not pass out, we have the enduring "hope" that life's journey will end at heaven's gate. The Holy Spirit has revealed all of God's loving help to secure our salvation along the way to heaven, where we will find triumphant joy forevermore.
By W. Frank Walton