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Suffering and the 'U-Curve' of Life

What we consider to be the worst can result in God's best for us.


A story that I think about from time to time may also be one that you are familiar with. There was a wise man who lived on the northern frontier of China. One day, for no apparent reason, his horse ran away. When people in the community tried to console him, the man said, "What makes you so sure it isn't a good thing?" Some months later, the horse returned, bringing a splendid wild stallion. Everyone congratulated the man, but this man said, "What makes you so sure this is a good thing?"

The wise man's son loved to ride this wild stallion, but one day the wild stallion bucked, throwing his son off the horse, and the son ended up breaking his hip and he could not walk. People in the community tried to console him, but the father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a blessing?"

Not long after, nomads from across the northern border invaded the land and every able-bodied man was called up to defend the country. This community ended up losing nine out of every 10 men, but because the man's son could not walk, he was allowed to stay home and care for his aging father.

This story illustrates that often we don't know whether something will prove to be a blessing or a curse, whether something is so-called "good luck" or "bad luck." Scripture goes even further. It teaches us that sometimes what we consider to be the best thing in the world turns out to be the very worst thing for us, and sometimes the things we consider to be the worst turn out to be the very best.

The U-curves of our lives

Scripture does not specifically use the image of the U-curve or inverted U-curve, but it often traces just such a pattern in the lives of people.

The life of a successful ...

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Ken Shigematsu is pastor of Tenth Church in Vancouver, BC and the author of the award-winning, bestseller God in My Everything

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Audio Sample:

Sermon Outline:


I. The U-curves of our lives

II. The rich and the inverted U-curve

III. Guard against grumbling

IV. A harvest of great character

V. Suffering from our own sins

VI. Suffering beyond our control