February 19, 1942 was a fascinating day for Canada. It was "If Day" - a World War II staging of a fake Nazi invasion of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The intent was to show what it would be like "if" Canada fell under the harsh occupation of Nazi forces, and so that Canadians would support the war effort more fully. As one person described the event: "If Day brought home the reality of Nazi occupation. Manitobans got a very bitter taste of nearly every aspect of Nazi brutality". The key word there is nearly. While "If Day" was a valiant attempt to educate people about danger in the world, it could not begin to recreate the actual suffering that was sweeping Europe.
Real trials in life are not ifs - they are whens. In fact life's most profound lessons cannot simply be observed, they must be experienced. It is there, in actual seasons of heartache and loss, that we gain greater insights into life, faith, and our need of God. To that end, James wrote, "My bretheren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience" (James 1:2-3).
Trials come because we live in a broken world, but we decide if we will learn the lessons taught. There are no "ifs"about it - it is an important way to grow. Tough times can teach us to trust. And, tough times can teach us to grow.