Minnesota has been my home for more than a decade, but I didn't grow up here. I'm a native of Ohio, which shares much with Minnesota in its Midwestern mindset.

Both states have a common heritage of blue-collar work ethics, agricultural frugality and small-town sensibilities. My native state and my adopted state have much in common, but I have come to notice and experience one significant difference: the winters!

We had winter in Ohio. We would get some snow off and on for a few months, and then spring would arrive. Just about the time we were getting sick of winter, the temperature would rise, the birds would return and high school baseball practice would commence.

Not so in Minnesota.

Just about the time I start getting tired of the long and endless cold, the calendar finally turns to January, and I realize that I'm not even halfway to the end. Groundhog Day is a win-win situation for us here. It doesn't matter whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not. The rest of the world sees "six more weeks of winter" as a curse.

Not for us in Minnesota. If spring breaks in six weeks, we'll all consider ourselves blessed! After 10 years here, I'm still getting used to these long, cold winters.

I don't like the winters, but here's my secret confession: I take a masochistic satisfaction in our long and terrible cold weather. We have the hardest and most miserable winters of anyone around, and I like to brag about it. When any of my friends or family from Ohio complain about weather, I quickly and condescendingly say things like, "You think that is bad? It was 45 degrees below zero here last week!"

I will forever win all weather debates with my out-of-state friends. We Minnesotans have the worst winters of all, and we're proud of it. If you think you have it bad, we have it worse. Our miserable winters are part of our identity, and we all secretly love it.

There is something about hardship that is actually good for us. Most of us want comfort and ease. We don't like it when we have to struggle. We want life to be simple and pleasurable.

Wouldn't it be great if every day was 70 degrees and sunny? It sounds great, but it really wouldn't be. The truth is that comfort and ease often make us lazy and apathetic. It is struggle and hardship that take us deeper. The trials and struggles in life are the things that force us to grow deeper. Nobody likes to struggle, but we need it.

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul makes the seemingly absurd claim that we should "rejoice in our sufferings." Why? "Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit." (Romans 5:3-5).

In our sufferings we learn to persevere. God builds our character through the hard times, and that produces hope.

If you are going through a hard time, don't be so quick to want to escape it. Maybe God is doing a work in you that you can't see yet. Perhaps He is taking you deeper and teaching you some things that you could never understand if life was always comfortable.

Nobody wants to suffer and struggle, but God will use these times in our life if we let Him. He may even teach us to rejoice in the hardships, even when it's 45 below zero!