This past Tuesday, I was tutoring a student in creative writing. This was our first real lesson, so I was explaining to her some things that every story must have. For example, a good story must have characters, a plot, a setting, a theme, etc. That part is easy. Almost everyone knows that. But, then I had to explain to her the first thing I learned when I studied creative writing.
A good story must have a problem or conflict. It sounds strange, I know, but think about every good book you've ever read. The story revolved around a problem or conflict. It wouldn't be much of a story if all was smooth sailing for your characters. In fact, it would be quite boring.
On the heels of this revelation, I had to explain why the story needs conflict. The answer is so that the main character can experience growth. The character at the end of the story should be a little different than the one at the beginning. Perhaps he is a little wiser or has a different attitude. Whatever the situation, character growth is essential to a good story.
Isn't life very similar? After all, God is writing our life stories. We are His main characters. Life itself is the plot. The time and place in which we exist is the setting. The theme is to honor Him and bring glory to Him. And the conflict? Well, we see those all the time. Don't we? Lost jobs, broken families, financial crisis, etc. Yes, our story has plenty of conflict, but why?
So that we (the characters) can experience growth! The reason God allows us to go through trials is to help us grow into better Christians. How many times have we come out of a bad situation and found that we were better because of it? God is not punishing us by sending hard times. He's simply giving us a reason to improve. He is writing the ultimate story!