Life’s Classroom- The School Of Hard Knocks Definition

While most of North America is headed back to school in August or September, I have found that the school of hard knocks has no set time to start or stop.

It seems to arrive off and on and usually not when you are expecting it.

This school does not provide you with a school supply list. It does not send you a letter to give you dates of school breaks or any other helpful information. 

So getting ready for the school of hard knocks is a little more challenging.

If you don’t relate to the term “school of hard knocks”, you probably will relate to these synonyms.

  • Troubles
  • Adversity
  • Struggles
  • Hardship
  • Life storms
  • Stress
  • Tough breaks

Some people call it the school of life.

So then how does a person who has graduated from formal education prepare for the next step,  the school of hard knocks? That is our topic for today.

What does the phrase school of hard knocks mean?

Wikipedia defines the school of hard knocks as:

“an idiomatic phrase meaning the education one gets from life’s usually negative experiences, often contrasted with formal education.”

The urban dictionary defines it this way:

“The practical experience of life, including hardship and disappointments.”

So just like in our formal education where there are subjects that are mandatory or pre-requisites, life has lessons that it requires us to learn.

What are the subjects for YOUR school of hard knocks?

  • Getting through an unwanted divorce?
  • Surviving the death of a spouse?
  • Making your paycheck last until the end of the month?
  • Just managing to get your kids out the door on time in the morning?

These are only a few examples of what the school of hard knocks gives us. Most likely each of us could add a multitude of things to the list.

Where did the term school of hard knocks come from?

The “school of hard knocks” is a slang term about life and originated in 1912 by George Ade who was a writer, columnist, and playwright in the United States. He was well known for a collum titled, “Stories of the Streets and the Town.”

How do I prepare for the school of hard knocks?

Formal education gives us many tools to navigate life, but when it comes to spiritual education, it leaves us holding the bag.

Fortunately, God does not leave us on our own to figure it out. He has given us a textbook with all the lessons we will ever need. It is the Bible. To prepare for school you need to:

  1. Make sure you know the teacher
  2. Read your textbook and know what it teaches
  3. Get to know the other students in the class
  4. Keep a list of special things for show and tell

Make sure you know the teacher

Knowing your teacher is the most important preparation for surviving the school of life both spiritually and emotionally.

While there are many who have claimed to be spiritual teachers, the only one who gives real spiritual direction is Jesus Christ.

He is the only spiritual teacher who has not only walked with humans here on earth, but He conquered death and is alive at the right hand of God the Father.

If you don’t know Jesus, you probably have questions. The people at Chat About Jesus have answers. You can text, call, or chat with them online any time of the day or night.

God has prepared a wonderful place for us to learn here on planet Earth. I call it the Creator’s Classroom.

Read your textbook and know what it teaches

The Bible is the most important textbook that you could ever own. In it are instructions on how to handle all of life’s circumstances. If you are new to the Christian Faith, you will benefit from Bible Reading For Beginnershow and where to start.

Get to know the other students in the class

It is extremely important to have friends that love Jesus. When the storms of life hit you suddenly, you will need those who can support you through it all.

Keep a list of special things for show and tell

Part of participating in God’s school of life is that He gives you purpose in the pain. He teaches you how to get through your problems with flying colors.

Then God gives you the opportunity to be a type of student-teacher, sharing what you have learned in order to comfort others going through the same situations.

Can I graduate from the school of hard knocks?

There are days when I wish the world would stop and I could get off. Sometimes it feels like a rollercoaster ride that will never end.

Thankfully, this world is not our final home if we know Jesus personally. We will graduate from the University Of Life when we go to heaven.

This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treatsures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; the angels becon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” Albert E. Brumley 1924

What kind of credentials can I earn from the school of hard knocks?

Just as you can receive credentials with formal education, there are credentials associated with the school of hard knocks.

However, let me give a disclaimer. These credentials usually do not give you prestige in the eyes of the people around you. You can’t place them on your business card.

In fact, the only ones who get excited about these credentials are you and God. But really, isn’t that all that matters?

P.H.D. (Praising Him Daily)

Being able to praise God Daily is an important part of growing up spiritually.

Until we have gone through some rough moments in life we can’t fully appreciate the many good gifts that God has given to us.

The school of hard knocks is informal but very much an educational institution for young people as way as well as the more mature.

For the gift of Salvation and forgiveness of sin

The difficulties that we face on an almost daily basis are a direct result of sin which damaged the world we live in and the people we live with.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves … groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23 NIV

For the gift of creation

Even with the damage that this world has experienced from sin, we still have an amazing place to live in. I can’t imagine how absolutely breathtaking our world must have been in the beginning.

God has designed each creature with mind-boggling DNA. No two people are exactly the same. That also goes for the rest of the living creatures. Even snowflakes are different from each other.

Our world is filled with a variety of colors, sounds, shapes, and textures to experience. All are gifts from our Creator. We often overlook them yet need to be aware and take it all in.

God created this world for our pleasure and His glory.

For the gift of God’s presence

The presence of God in our lives is a special blessing. When we know Him intimately, we have confidence that defies explanation in the middle of difficult circumstances. We can have joy even when we are sad. We can comfort others as God is comforting us.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 ESV

For the gift of others who love Jesus

The family of God can be an amazing thing. Coming from all walks of life, nationalities, socio-economic backgrounds, and educational levels, we have a common bond. That bond is Jesus.

As Christians, we then have the opportunity to encourage one another, bless one another, help each other, and pray for each other. In fact, this is what Jesus said about us.

“By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 ESV

When the early Christian community was forming, this is what happened:

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the LORD added to their number day by day those who were being saved. ” Acts 2:46-47 ESV

When God’s people love each other and spend time together, that love overflows to those around them.

This is exactly what was happening in the Book of Acts. People of the city saw God’s love in the early Christians and were attracted to them and their God. Today we still get to be a part of that.

W.D. (Well Done)

We can receive this credential once we have finished our race here on earth and meet Jesus face to face. It is referenced in Matthew 25:21.

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” ESV

All those who love and serve Jesus look forward to these words of affirmation.

The many disappointments, trials, and hardships that we face pale in comparison to spending eternity with our Savior and hearing His words, “Well done”.

Final thoughts

Call it what you may: 

  • school of hard knocks, 
  • school of life, 
  • adversity, 
  • struggles, 
  • hardships, or
  •  storms of life. 

We all will attend at one point or another. And truthfully, this is the best higher education we can receive.

When we are connected to God through a relationship with Jesus, each “test score” should increase. Every new lesson prepares us for the next one. 

We might as well face it. There are times when life is hard.

We can fight it, bemoan it, curse it, or better yet, use it to learn some great lessons from God our creator.

The school of hard knocks is not the enemy when we know Jesus. It is blessed education from the greatest classroom, the greatest textbook, and the greatest teacher of all!

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