Victor Hugo once said, “Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.” When everything goes well for us, or comes to us with little effort, we tend to grow soft and less grateful than we should be for the myriad blessings which inundate us each and every day. Conversely, when times are tough, we are less inclined to take things for granted.
Here is an excellent excerpt on this point taken from a masterpiece titled Heliotropium:
Look at a pilot in a storm, a soldier on the field of battle, an athlete in the arena. No one can tell what you are capable of, no, not even your own self, unless you are exercised with afflictions of various kinds. There is need of trial in order to become acquainted with oneself. No one has ever learnt what he could do except by trying. Great men rejoice at times in adversity, just as brave soldiers exult in battle. Virtue is greedy of danger, and thinks of whither it is advancing, not of what it will have to endure, since whatever it endures is a part of its glory. How can I tell what advance you have made in Trust towards God, if all things turn out as you desire? How can I tell what courage you have to bear poverty, if you are rolling in riches? How can I tell what constancy you have to endure ignominy, and disgrace, and universal hatred, if you reach old age amid the approbation of all, and pass your life without an enemy? In good truth, there is need of trial for the knowledge of self. There is no great difficulty in saying in prosperity, “The Lord is my Firmament, my Refuge, and my Deliverer.” If a beggar begins for the first time to say, “I am now easy in my mind ; this week, at least, I shall not be starved,” when he has a bag bursting with bread, he shows that he is a man destitute of hope. “Hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience.” (Rom. viii. 24, 25.) Our Trust, therefore, shines most conspicuously at that time when flowing blood proclaims wounds, when waves beat into the frail ship, when we are enclosed in difficulties ; this is the place, and this is the time for Trust.