Sometimes we can learn a life lesson from an unlikely teacher.

I received a box of gifts from friends in France this week. I love this family dearly, and receiving their gifts was extra special. I treasured each item as I unwrapped it and removed it from the box.

There were several items inside, including a beautiful glass perfume decanter, French coffee, and other food delicacies. There was also a bread basket with a linen liner embroidered with the French word for bread, pain, which is pronounced  pë or pei(n). For those of us with English as our first language, we recognize pain as meaning as physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury, grief, misery, regret, hurt, ache, grief, affliction, or distress.

I am one of those people that tries to find some kind of good in every situation. It helps me to discover the proverbial silver lining in every cloud, the good on the edges of the difficult. And I have been considering many things since receiving my pain basket this week:

1.   Adversity and regret give me a choice: will I allow this to make me bitter or better? No one enjoys receiving a serving of sorrow, grief, trouble, regret, or illness. But life delivers each of these whether we have ordered them or not. Often we would like to return to sender the pain and difficult things in our lives. We get to choose how we will deal with them when they come. We can decide to walk through them in grace or to complain (or kick and scream) and wallow in our place of pain.

2.   I often discover more about how God loves me and cares for me when I am in pain. When I am humbled, I am more likely to look to him for help and assurance. I am never more aware of my need for God than when I realize that I am helpless without him.

3.   Human frailty is a reality: our bodies are not made to last forever. Our spiritual selves are made to last forever, and include a deep craving that only Jesus Christ can fulfill.

4.   Experiencing the pain of regret or the consequences of my sin drive me to my knees in repentance. Only when I see my own sinful heart can I understand and appreciate the depth of my need for God and his forgiveness, healing, and grace.

Laura Story penned a beautiful song called “Blessings” that epitomizes my thoughts about the faithfulness of God in the midst of difficulties. “What if your blessings come through raindrops, what if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near? What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise? What if my greatest disappointments, or the achings of this life, are the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy? And what if trials of this life – the rain, the storms, the hardest nights – are your mercies in disguise?”

We do not often order up adversity or pain. But when they arrive uninvited, we can recognize through eyes of faith that God offers us an opportunity to receive his grace for our journey in the midst of our need.