I had lunch recently with a businessman who runs his own company. As we talked, the subject of wisdom kept popping up in our conversation. So I asked, “How does a person get wisdom? I realize we are to be men of wisdom, but few people ever talk about how it is acquired.”
His answer was quick and to the point: “Pain.”
I paused and looked deeply into his eyes. Without knowing the specifics, I knew his one-word answer was not theoretical. He and pain had gotten to know each other rather well.
It was then I quoted from the first chapter of James: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots” (James 1:2-4, Phillips).
There is no shortcut, no such thing as instant endurance. The pain brought on by interruptions and disappointments, by loss and failure, by accidents and disease, is the long and arduous road to maturity. There is no other road.
But where does wisdom come in? James explains in the next verse: “And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him” (1:5).
As I see it, it is a domino effect. One thing bumps up against another, which, in turn, bumps another, and in the long haul, endurance helps us mature. Periodically, however, we will find ourselves at a loss to know what to do or how to respond. It’s then we ask for help, and God delivers more than intelligence and ideas and good old common sense. He dips into His well of wisdom and allows us to drink from His bucket, whose refreshment provides abilities and insights that are of another world. Perhaps it might best be stated as having a small portion of “the mind of Christ.”
When we have responded as we should to life’s blows, enduring them rather than escaping them, we are given more maturity that stays with us and new measures of wisdom, which we are able to draw upon for the balance of our lives.
By accepting life’s tests and temptations as friends, we become men and women of mature character.