A few years ago, Carol and I drove through Idaho and Washington, the top two potato-producing states in the USA. I had often heard of Idaho potatoes, but not so much about Washington potatoes. I’m sure that was my own ignorance because those two states produce more potatoes by weight than all the other states combined.

Potatoes are sorted by machines these days, but that has not always been the case. Years ago, after harvesting, farmers would spread out potatoes and sort them, dividing them according to size–small, medium, and large. Then they bagged them and loaded them onto trucks.

However, one farmer didn’t bother to sort his potatoes, yet he was known for making the most money. A puzzled neighbor asked him, “What is your secret?”

The farmer answered, “It’s simple. I just load the wagon with potatoes and take the roughest road to town. During the eight-mile trip, the little potatoes fall to the bottom. The medium potatoes land in the middle, while the big potatoes rise to the top.”

“People are like potatoes,” said Robert Schuller, who told that story. “It’s a law of life. Big potatoes rise to the top on rough roads, and tough people rise to the top in rough times.” Or as he famously said, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

I have been a people-watcher for most of my adult life. Maybe you are too. If you pay attention, you observe how some people rise to the top, even though they endure incredible difficulties.

How do people do it? Some are faced with cancer or a loved one is stricken. The family is suddenly plunged into life-changing circumstances filled with chemotherapy or radiation treatments. They face dietary changes, reduced energy levels, and somehow find the courage to weather these rough storms.

Or another family loses a loved one. As a friend told me recently, after his mother died, “People ask me how we’re doing. I tell them, ‘It’s horrible! But it’s okay.'”

How can it be horrible and okay all at the same time? The situation is horrible, but God gives strength. Paul discovered this when God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

Are you going through a horrible experience? Call upon God, whose grace is sufficient.