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. We were agreeing on the value of certain qualities that cannot be learned in school — things like intuition, diligence, integrity, perception, consistency, loyalty — when he, again, mentioned wisdom.
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.
As he told me of the things he has been dealing with in recent months, some professional and some personal, I told him he had spent sufficient hours in the crucible to have earned his Ph.D. in wisdom! It was then I quoted from the first chapter of James:
Consider it all joy, my bretheren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Aren't those great words? More importantly, they are absolutely true. By accepting life's tests and temptations as friends, we become men and women of mature character. 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? It comes through the back door of life when we lean out the window and yell "Help!" That's not my idea. James says so in the next verse:
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to 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.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, "Back Door Blessing," in The Finishing Touch: Becoming God's Masterpiece (Dallas: Word, 1994), 330-31. Copyright © 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.