What makes a person great? That question has been asked for centuries. But there seems to be, in my opinion, one factor that makes people great. It’s not what they do or where they are born or how much money they may have. Those factors can influence a person, but doesn’t necessarily mold them into greatness.
In my opinion, what makes people great is what adversity they overcome. When a person is in the “furnace of affliction,” what is burned out of them or what is seared onto their hearts will determine their greatness.
I finally saw the movie “42” which tells the remarkable story of Jackie Robinson. No question Jackie was a great ballplayer, but there were many great ballplayers in that era. We all know it wasn’t wealth that made Jackie Robinson great–he was dirt poor when he started out. What made him great (and a legend) is the fact that he stood firm in the face of racism, oppression, name-calling, death threats, and suffering. It was his willingness to fight through the affliction that made him great.
Think about the others that history has called great. Washington overcame the hardships of the Revolution, Lincoln held the nation together through the terrible conflict of war, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn suffered in the Soviet gulags, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s stand against the Nazis are all examples of people who became great through hardship.
While most of us do not consider ourselves to be Jackie Robinsons or Abraham Lincolns, all of us face stress, oppression, hardship and great difficulty at times in life. Instead of viewing these as torment with no purpose, think of them as God’s way of molding you into greatness. What makes a person great is not the fact he goes through hardship, but how he handles hardship. Greatness is not bestowed upon a person. It is earned in the fires of affliction.