We value little what we have not earned. Take the example of Albert Clarke. He inherited the royalties from a famous child’s book, Goodnight Moon! The book’s author, Margaret Wise Brown, befriended Albert when he was a little boy and willed all future royalties to him.
Brown died in 1952 from an embolism when she was just 42 and Albert Clarke was 9. By the age of 21 he received his first $75,000 from the royalties of Brown’s book. He showed his appreciation by squandering the money on expensive clothes and cars. Over the years more than $5 million fell into his lap. But the money that came easy went easy. He wasted his unearned wealth on “drugs, cars, bad real estate deals, and legal fees (he was arrested dozens of times on various charges).” When last contacted by reporters Albert Clarke had only a few thousand dollars left of the fortune he never earned.1
I’m sure there’s a valuable lesson in this for parenting – to teach your children the value of money and of working. But that’s not the one I had in mind.
I’m thinking more of the difference between the life-lessons we earn and learn from bitter experience versus those we receive from the experience of others. The lessons that we learn from others are those “trouble-free” and “easy-to-learn” lessons. They come through seminars and self-help books in prepackaged and easily digestible portions.
But which source of wisdom and knowledge is more likely to leave a permanent effect upon us? Those learned through tough experience or those handed to us? Unquestionably, those lessons which we learn in the school of hard knocks, those we earn, are the ones that will stay with us for a life-time. They become part of us. They’re not just in our heads, but in our entire being.
So – the next time you ask God, “Why do I have to go through this? Can’t I just read a book on how to be a better person? Why is it necessary to be faced with challenges, deadlines, and abrasive, obnoxious people?” Remember this:
To learn it we must earn it.
The Scripture tells us that tribulation and trials produce perseverance and patience in us (Rom. 5:3; James 1:2). It reminds us that our afflictions cause our renewal day by day and generate our “glory to glory” transformation (2 Cor. 4:16–17). Did our Lord find a better way to learn life’s lessons? No, “Though he was the Son He learned obedience by what He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Therefore, reading about or listening to the experiences of others doesn’t cut it. We cannot by-pass God’s methods to achieve God’s work in our lives.
Dear Father in heaven, I place my life in Your hands. Please lead me through the school of faith and hard knocks. Be my Guide and Teacher that, at the end of life I may present to You a heart of wisdom. Amen.
1. “Unlikely Benefactors.” Uncle John's Unsinkable Bathroom Reader, Bathroom Readers' Press, 2008.