Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who was executed in April 1945, just weeks before World War II ended, for his part in a plot to kill Hitler. I have been listening to an audio version of Eric Metaxas’s excellent biography of him, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, and have been struck by his godliness and his clear thinking on some difficult aspects of the Christian life.

In August 1943 he wrote to a young friend who had just lost his father. One piece of advice he gave was this:

“Pray to God with your whole heart to help you preserve and prove what has been given you [the blessings of a godly family]. … In such times one must struggle through a great deal for oneself alone. You will have to learn out there how one sometimes must come to terms with something alone before God. It is often very difficult, but these are the most important hours of life.” (p. 409-10)

His advice hit home to me, especially that last sentence. How often, when a trial enters our lives – even one much smaller than the loss of a loved one – do we long to just get through the dark clouds and rain and come out on the other side in the sunshine. We value warm summer days more than cold winter nights.

But what if we considered that those times of difficulty, of enforced waiting upon God, of desperate prayer, of anguished longing, of crying out to Jesus for help, were “the most important hours” of our lives? What if we learned to value our trials more than our comfort? What if we remembered the words of the Lord that gently admonish us, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:5-6)? If we did, the few dark days God leads us through would enrich us far more than all the bright days we could ever experience. And our love for Jesus could not but increase.

Lord, may I not turn away from you during a trial but toward you and treat even the hardest times as the most important times of my life.