Her dad was a chef. He was used to working in the kitchen, cooking and preparing meals. But this young lady was not happy. She was miserable, complaining about life in general.
It was a bit depressing really. But she was struggling to find purpose in life—and for her, it seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed. So her father decided it was time for action.
He took her into the kitchen and filled three pots with water. He placed each on a fire, and the pots started to boil. His daughter wondered what her father was up to. After a while, the pots were boiling. Into one pot he put some potatoes, in the second some eggs, and ground coffee beans into the third pot. All a bit stranger really—what was he trying to do?, she wondered. He let them sit and boil. Didn’t say a word. And his impatient daughter was getting annoyed.
After 20 minutes, he turned off the burners and took the potatoes out and into a bowl. Out came the eggs. Then he took out the coffee and placed it in a cup. What do you see now? he asked. Quickly and impatiently she said, Potatoes, eggs and coffee. He told his daughter to have a closer look—the potatoes were soft. Take an egg and break it. She peeled the egg and saw it was hard-boiled. No surprise there. She sipped the coffee—its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.
What does all this mean, dad? Her wise father said the potatoes, eggs and coffee beans had all faced the same adversity: the boiling water. But each one reacted differently. The potato went in strong and hard, but in the boiling water, became soft and weak. The egg was fragile. The outer shell protected the inner liquid until it was placed in the boiling water. Then the inside became hard.
But the ground coffee beans were unique. After being exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new. Looking intently at his daughter he said, Which are you? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?
In an instant, she got it. In life, things happen around us. Things happen to us all the time. But the main thing that truly matters is what happens within us.
It’s inevitable that you will experience some kind of problem or adversity. Think of our super-athletes at the Olympic Games. At Athens in 2004, Ian Thorpe won the 400-metre freestyle after a magnificent effort. But it wasn’t easy. He had to use every ounce of energy. Jana Pittman won the 400-metre hurdles with a new record, despite knee injury and stress fractures in her back. What a remarkable feat, winning against adversity!
Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk and writer. He said, “To hope is to risk frustration. Therefore, make up your mind to risk frustration.” What happens when adversity knocks on your door? Viktor Frankl, the Jewish psychologist who spent time in a Nazi concentration camp in Germany said,
They stripped me naked. They took everything—my wedding ring, watch. I stood there naked and all of a sudden realized at that moment that although they could take everything away from me—my wife, my family, my possessions—they could not take away my freedom to choose how I was going to respond.
There’s a wonderful verse in the New Testament we need to think about. Romans 12:12 (ESV) says: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”. God knows what he’s doing in our lives, even if we don’t. He is working quietly, taking the worst situations and turning them into good.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” – Romans 12:12 (ESV)
Against great obstacles William Wilberforce, a committed Christian Member of Parliament in the UK, fought for the abolition of the African slave trade and against slavery itself until they were both illegal in the British Empire. The battle consumed almost 46 years of his life (from 1787 to 1833). The defeats and setbacks along the way would have caused the ordinary politician to embrace a more popular cause.
Though he never lost a parliamentary election from age 21 to 65, the cause of abolishing the slave trade was defeated 11 times before its passage in 1807. And the battle for abolishing slavery itself did not gain the decisive victory until three days before he died in 1833. During those 46 years he battled illness (eye problems and ulcerative colitis)—he was on opium to help the pain. His friends deserted him, but he battled on. He persevered against great adversity. But slavery was abolished.
Today I don’t know what adversity you face. But I can tell you how the Apostle Paul handled it, and gave this divine word, which applies today—Romans 5:3-5 (ESV):
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.