This is one of what I call Einstein's Relevancies. Though not officially so, it comes from my blog called You Don't Have to Be an Einstein. I hope to expand here on what I began in this article.
For me as a Christian I would change the wording a bit and say "out of suffering comes hope". Romans 5:1ff talks about the christian life and Paul suggests that "suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us." Whether or not this is what Einstein was getting at, I don't know, but it is what God wants us to pay attention to.
I am bothered by a spirituality that wants to escape trouble, difficulty, and suffering. It seems to me that Jesus along with the New Testament writers join in saying that if we follow Jesus, trouble, difficulty and suffering will follow us. This is far from the Good News most of us think we ought to be sharing. We shy away from this message because it isn't "positivistic". But in the midst of it is maybe a great lesson for us.
When things are difficult, often our prayers are of such a kind that we ask for God to remove the painful experiences we find ourselves in. It's not bad to do this. But it's not enough either. I believe God wants us to share with him the desires of our hearts - take this cup of suffering from me. I also believe that when the cup of suffering is accepted, that God is at work in our midst.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article for a journal called Presence: The International Journal of Spiritual Directors. Let me summarize part of it for you.
My wife's family lived on a ranch/farm in northern Minnesota. It came time for them to sell the ranch. In that region, farm auctions are quite common. This is what they did. Their farm had already been evaluated by the auctioneering company and deemed large enough to hold an auction. The day before it was to take place, the auctioneers showed up and I walked with my wife's father and brother over about a ten acre area as the auctioneer asked questions about different items on the farm. His question was always the same. We'd come across a pile of wood and he'd ask - "Do you want to sell this?" Of an old model A engine used for a generator he'd ask, "Do you want this to go?" He did this throughout the farm. Nothing was too insignificant to be included in the sale, from bailing wire to copper tubing to plate metal to a horse drawn sleigh.
Edarald, my father-in-law, responded to each question the same, yes. Everything was to go. That was the point. The next day the auction took place and literally, everything went. It must have been a bittersweet moment for my wife's family. The homestead, that had been built out of much toil and suffering and sweat, was almost gone. But another thing happened. My father and brother-in-law could probably have told stories about every single item sold. It probably reminded them of stories that together told the story of their family. The auctioneer never once said that a particular item was worthless. Never once did he de-value what the family had accumulated over decades - rusted or not. Everything was valuable, not equally, but still valuable.
When it comes to difficulties and suffering, many people want to circumvent the experience. I believe this is not what God intends. In many ways it is in the midst of difficulties that our greatest chances for faith occur. C.S. Lewis in his book "The Problem of Pain" calls pain, God's megaphone to get our attention. I trust that's not what it always takes, but oftentimes it does. When we seek to avoid difficulty or escape suffering, we may be avoiding the very thing that God is using to get our attention. We may be devaluing the very part of life that is most valuable. Rather than praying that God would get us out of the situation, part of our prayer needs to be to ask God to show us where he is in our suffering and difficulties.
In my next blog I'll address how we might discover God's presence in what seems like a most unsatisfactory situation.
Til then, consider that from our suffering, God is interested in developing hope.