There once was a woman who was miserable with her life. She hated her low-paying, high stress job, yet worried every night about losing it. She and her husband were falling behind on their bills and their credit card debt kept growing. They constantly fought with each over their money problems. Her husband began coming home later and later every night. She suspected he might be cheating on her.
She was beside herself. In desperation, one night she dropped to her knees and began to pray. She continued praying for several months, every night begging God to fix her money problems and make her happy. Then, one night, God appeared to her in her bedroom.
“I am very sorry to see you unhappy, my child. What can I do to help?”
The woman thought long and hard. “Please, dear God, help turn my life around. I want to stop fighting with my husband and I want all of my money problems to go away. I want to finally be in control of my life.”
God thought for a minute, then said, “I will give you a gift. It is my greatest gift. This gift has the power to completely transform your life. Do you accept my gift?”
“Yes, yes I do. I do accept your gift. Please give me your greatest gift so that I can transform my life.”
With that, God bowed his head and said, “my greatest gift is bestowed upon you, my child.”
God slowly faded away and then, vanished into the night.
A year went by and the woman’s life only got worse. Everything was collapsing in on her. Unpaid bills, credit card companies relentlessly pursuing her, she lost her job, her mortgage company initiated foreclosure proceedings and the final straw – her husband left her for another woman.
At her breaking point, in complete desperation, she began to cry uncontrollably. Between the sobs, she screamed to the heavens, “God, you are a fraud. You’re a liar. You’ve given me nothing but more problems.”
After the tears subsided, the woman lay in her bed exhausted. Laying there, she whispered to herself, “God has abandoned me, my husband has left me and no one is going to help me,”
Now reconciled to this fact, she somehow found the strength to pull herself out of bed, get up, shower and dress. She sat on her couch for what seems like hours, pondering her next move. Just then, a thought entered her mind.
She meandered up the stairs to the attic and pulled out her old paint brushes, along with her old paint bottles and set up one of the many blank canvases covered by blankets for many years.
And then she began to paint.
Hours became days and days turned into weeks. At some point, she paused and put her brushes down to look over her work. She found herself surrounded by dozens of the most beautiful paintings she had ever created. She marveled at her work. “I believe this is my best work ever,” she said to herself.
Just then, another thought entered her mind. “Maybe I should try to sell some of these paintings.”
The next morning, she found herself planted on a sidewalk, next to a city park, her paintings displayed for all to see.
A young couple slowed down to admire one of the paintings.
“How much?” they asked. Somewhat startled, she spit out the words “three hundred dollars.” The couple moved off to the side, he looking through his wallet and she her purse. When they were done, they turned back towards the woman.
“All we have is two hundred dollars.”
“Sold,” she heard herself say.
Not long after, an elderly man inquired about the price of another painting.
“How much?” he asked.
“Five hundred dollars,” she heard herself say.
“Fine,” the elderly man replied. And he handed her the money.
By the end of the day the woman had sold all of her paintings. She counted her money. $4,700. She could hardly believe it. She floated back home, proud, enthusiastic and happy for the first time in a long time.
Over the next few days the woman filled dozens more canvases and once again plopped herself down near the same place by the park. By the day’s end she counted her money. “$8,600! I can’t believe it”, she sang to herself.
Day after day, the woman continued to paint and sell her paintings. She accumulated more than enough money to pay off all of her delinquent bills, paid down all of her credit card debts and brought her mortgage up to date, putting an end to the foreclosure proceedings.
With the money she had left over, she decided to open her own art studio. Business was booming. Soon, other artists asked her if they could display their own paintings. Her cut was 30%.
A number of years went by and the woman purchased the building she had been renting her studio in. She now had ten tenants paying her rent, which covered the building’s mortgage and property taxes, leaving her with a very nice monthly profit. Plus her studio was making her wealthier each day.
One night, laying in her bed, God appeared.
“I’ve been keeping a very close eye on you. I’m so happy to see that your life has completely turned around and that you are doing so well now. You seem so happy.”
The woman stared at God in disbelief.
“Keeping an eye on me? Are you kidding? Since our last meeting, since you promised me your greatest gift, my life completely fell apart. I lost my job, my husband left me and I nearly lost my home. Where were you when I needed you most? You did nothing for me. I had to do it all on my own.”
“But don’t you see my child? I did give you my greatest gift,” God said in a soft, kindly tone.
Still staring at God in disbelief, the woman shook her head and demanded of God, “what gift?”
“I gave you the gift of self-reliance, my child. My gift enabled you to lift yourself up and, for the first time, take responsibility for the circumstances of your life. The adversity you experienced was necessary in order to force you to become the best version of yourself. Once you became self-reliant, you were able to tap into your inner talents, your inner strengths. The adversity forced you to grow and forced you to find the solutions to your problems. And once you overcame that adversity, you were able to relax and think with a clear mind. Relaxed, your eyes opened up to see the many opportunities that were always there but had been invisible to you during your old life. You are now wealthy, wealthier than you ever imagined you could ever be. You are happy and you are in complete control of your life. That is what you asked me for. Don’t you see my child, it was the gift of self-reliance, my greatest gift to humanity, that transformed your life. “
God slowly faded away until he was no more. As the woman lay in bed that night contemplating his words, a knowing smile began to blanket her face. She finally understood. Adversity is there to force us to grow, improve and to learn to solve our own problems. Her eyes became heavy and she soon found herself in a deep, peaceful sleep.
Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and author of “Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life”, “Effort-Less Wealth”, “Change Your Habits Change Your Life”, “Rich Habits Poor Habits” and “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.”