Of Cows and Hardship

A friend of mine keeps a small herd of cattle on his farm. But before initially releasing the cows to his pasture, he noticed several patches of a weed, Canadian thistle, growing in the pasture. He immediately thought, “I’ve got to get rid of that weed!” Like most thistles, this one also has tiny thorns. Additionally, weeds tend to be invasive and could soon take over a whole pasture.

But as he researched the problem, my friend discovered something he hadn’t expected. While it’s true that cows initially find this thistle’s tiny thorns unpleasant, they toughen to the thorns and will eat it. And eating it yields two great results. First, this thistle contains much higher amounts of protein than the grass in the pasture, so it’s more nutritious. Second, by eating it the cows naturally keep the thistle from spreading. But the key is, they have to put up with the thorns.

Why am I writing about cows eating thistles? Because when faced with hardship, our immediate response is, “I’ve got to get rid of this problem!” But time and time again, hardships, challenges, and problems prove to be far more beneficial in helping us grow than when all is going smoothly and according to plan.

Obviously, there are some hardships or problems in our lives that we need to remove as soon as possible. But sometimes we try to extricate ourselves from a gritty challenge too soon. Perhaps we should at least stop and reflect on a few questions like:

  • What caused this problem? (What do I need to change?)
  • In what ways can I grow as a result of this hardship?
  • What are my peripheral responses to this hardship? (How am I holding up? What impact is it having on: my joy, the way I treat others, or my health?)
  • Where is God in the midst of this crisis? To what extent am I trusting Him?
  • Instead of running from this problem, how else could I respond to it?

Hardships toughen us, stretch us and enable us to grow in ways otherwise not possible. What are the thistles in your life right now and how can you profit from them?

©2017 Rob Fischer