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How to Transform Health Trials Into Teaching Moments

Do you remember your favorite teacher?

I am not certain I could pick one teacher out as my very favorite. But I can identify my most influential teacher with definite certainty.

My fifth-grade teacher was a dynamo.

Standing at about 4 feet 10 inches, she began every morning with a hearty “good morning,” and did not stop until the final bell rang.

She was the precise definition of tough. She timed the length of time it took us to swap our books in between subjects and deducted that time off our recess.

Her intense penmanship drills would make it difficult for even the most astute legal handwriting analyst to determine the difference between her students’ cursive.

During parent teacher conferences, she took my mom to view my desk – as organizational skills spilled over into educational successes. While my book organization was pleasing to her eye, I had a few scrunched-up tissues in my desk that were quite concerning.

Looking back at high school, my bachelors and my master’s degree programs, I never cried more over my studies than I did that fifth-grade year.

The other thing I remember about fifth grade is that I changed dramatically.

I went from a student who did not care very much about her grades, to one who wanted to succeed. What was once a classroom jokester, became an attentive goal-setter. I became a student with purpose.

Isn’t that the case with most of our tough stuff?

Our difficulties transform us. Whether they are health trials, job trials, relationship trials or the travail of walking through mundane, dull-seeming circumstances, our trials have the potential to shape us into more purposeful souls.

But we must let them.

In order to learn we must change our perspective and view our circumstances as what they are. They are not ultimate, but they can teach us ultimate lessons. They do not define us, but they can shape us.

My health trials have not been my favorite teacher. They consistently wake me up with pain and steal my sleep. They have taken away my ability to do things I love to do. They have taken away my ability to do very basic human tasks.

No, I would not declare them as my favorite teacher.

But they have been one of the most influential teachers.

They have taught me what is most important in life. They have taught me how to more fully enjoy a sunny day when I am well enough to do so. And they have taught me that I can just as fully enjoy the gift of rain, and the astounding way it emphasizes the intricately exquisite colors of creation. I have learned that pursuing relationships is far more meaningful than pursuing monetary gain or successful positions and titles. And that the deep joy that can be found amidst trials is far greater than the empty happiness that lies in easy and pleasant circumstances.

But those lessons must be chosen.

I have to wake up every day and determine what battle I am going to fight. My battle is not against my health issues. My battle is in identifying my exceeding joy. In removing the lens that sees the circumstances of this life as ultimate, and adopting the perspective that identifies my true hope. A hope that anchors my soul, and positions it in something far more eternal.

This post originally appeared on Melissa Choose Joy.

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