My oldest boys had a soccer game just a half-mile up the road. The sun was smiling. Our little red wagon was waiting, and so thirty minutes before the game, I loaded up my two-year-old son, Asher, and called my nine-year-old, Lydia, before cheerfully picking up the handle and heading out the door.

We had just enough time–or so I thought–to deliver a dozen newspapers on the kids’ paper route on our way to the game. After finishing the job, we met my husband, Dana, who was walking home from work, right at the entrance of the sprawling boarding school where the boys were playing. Perfect!

Only the day was hotter than I’d thought. And the field was further than I’d thought. And we couldn’t find it. Of course, I hadn’t brought any water for the kids who were howling for a drink as we rattled along.

By now we were also late. What had begun as a carefree afternoon had turned into a sweaty, grumbly slog. Then a car pulled up beside us.

“Do you know where the game is?” the secretary of the boys’ school, also lost, called through her open window.

“No. Do you?” Dana asked.

The secretary shook her head and kept driving. She didn’t come back. Five minutes more, still no sign of the game. I was about to turn back home when another vehicle–this one coming from the opposite direction–slowed and stopped. It was the school’s founder.

“I heard you were lost!” the spry, gray-haired driver said. “The field is still ten more minutes’ walk. I’ve been sent to give you a ride.”

After realizing it would be too far to walk home, Dana got directions to the field and decided to keep pulling the wagon with our kids while the founder drove me home to get our van.

“It was fortunate you came along,” I said. “Well, maybe not ‘fortunate’ since that depends on fortune, but a blessing.”

As we chatted about life’s difficulties, I wondered why we had to go through them.

“Sometimes,” I said, thinking of the hard events my family has endured in the last two years–job loss, family sickness, the death of a child, “it seems fortune is kinder than God. I mean, just look at the prophets in the Old Testament. Look what happened to them.”

The driver laughed, but as soon as I said it, I realized I was focusing on the wrong objective: the immediate, the only one I could see. God’s vision stretches much further.

After getting the van–and a thermos of water for the kids–I drove back to the game. On the way, I spotted a familiar van parked on the edge of a field. Pulling up beside it, I found the driver, a friend, looking bewildered and lost.

“Follow me!” I called through my open window to hers.

My friend smiled and steered her van behind mine as we continued toward the game. Because of the hardships I’d been through and the directions I’d recieved, I now knew where I was going.

That, I thought, is one reason why God allows so many difficulties in the lives of his followers–not because he is unkind or uncaring, but so we can show others the way.

“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering;  he speaks to them in their affliction” Job 36:15.

What do you think?