How to handle it !
Without warning, adversity strikes. Hours before, your world was a placid cove of tranquillity; now it resembles a raging sea. Twelve-foot waves of emotional unrest sweep through your mind, and hurricane-force winds tear at the protective barriers of your heart.
Had you known of its coming, you would have braced yourself for the siege; but adversity rarely announces its arrival. Instead, it attacks with fury through trial, heartache, or an emotional setback.
Adversity hands out pink slips at the office, delivers the untimely news of a loved one's death, underscores the crushing reality of a mate's betrayal, and drives the reality of terminal illness home to the waning heart. None of us know how or when adversity will come. Yet we all know at some point in life each one of us will face the acid test of adversity. The question becomes not when will adversity strike, but how do we handle its gripping reality?
There is Always A Purpose for Adversity
There are two sides to adversity. One side is positive and stimulates spiritual and emotional growth; the other carries the potential to defeat and destroy us. The apostle Paul gives us an example of the adversity in his life and how he learned to respond to its presence.
The Lord had given Paul a tremendous revelation of truth. He also allowed the apostle to suffer excruciating pain.
"And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself! "Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
No one knows the type of adversity that touched Paul's life. What we do know is that it was distressful. Paul tells us he beseeched God through prayer and fasting on three separate occasions for its removal. Yet, in wisdom, God allowed it to remain. Realizing that the Lord never allows anything to touch our lives outside of His perfect will, we can be assured that any suffering or disappointment has a purpose.
In Paul's case, the purpose was to maintain a point of humility. God had revealed a tremendous amount of spiritual knowledge to the apostle. The tendency for many of us would be to become proud over such wisdom. Paul knew that adversity facing him would ultimately keep him dependent on the sufficiency of Christ and not on his human ability. The ultimate goal of adversity is to increase our trust level in God by keeping us focused on His ability. When we turn to Him in overwhelming situations, He promises not only to become our strength but the basis for our peace.
What does God use adversity for in your life? (Genesis 50:15-20; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
How does knowing that He deeply cares for you change your perspective on your problem?
Responding To Adversity
The reasons for suffering are as vast and different as the people who are touched by adversity. It does not matter what position you hold in society, everyone has hurts. For some people the trials may seem more than they can bear. Pain can become so intense that even their faith in God may be challenged. For others, trial and tribulations become victorious pathways into a closer fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Our response to adversity reveals our true view of God. Paul's first thought was probably, Why, Lord? There are times when God reveals the reason for our adversity. Other times He will not. Asking God why He has allowed pain, heartache, or tragedy to touch your life is a natural human response. There is nothing wrong with that question.
Let me encourage you not to give up. Don't just ask Him once and then stop. He may want you to ask Him why until you are ready to hear His answer. Sometimes God has to prepare our hearts to accept His purpose for allowing adversity. On the other hand, there are some things God never reveals to us.
Many times adversity comes into our lives as a result of personal sin. We cannot blame God for the consequences of our disobedience and rebellion. The natural consequence of disobedience and rebellion brings adversity. A proper response here is confession of the sin and then repentance. By repentance, I mean willfully turn away from sin.
Sometimes adversity comes as a result of Satan's handiwork. You recall in the book of Job that Satan had to ask permission to touch Job's life. (Job 1:6-12) The temptations that the enemy brings into our lives are the basis for much of our adversity. However, not even Satan is allowed to do anything apart from the permissive will of God, and his dealings with us always carry a divine limitation. Therefore, all adversity either comes from what we do, from Satan, or from what God allows.
God limited Satan's activity in Job's life (Job 1:12) just as He limited the suffering and the hurt in the apostle Paul's life. Nothing happens in your life outside the power and knowledge of almighty God.
It is more important to God that we become the men and women that He wants us to be than for us to spend a lifetime of comfort and pleasure. God has a plan and a purpose for your life. Anytime you violate His principles, you will experience trial. Anytime Satan asks to buffet you, you will experience trouble. Regardless, with each adversity comes the glorious opportunity for spiritual growth. The key to adversity is your response. The apostle Paul submitted himself to the will of God, and adversity became a dynamic teacher of God's wondrous truth.
Are you facing some adversity in your life that seems to grow more painful with each day? How can God help you and use your pain to aid others? (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
Take a moment to list the trials you are facing. Be honest with God over the emotional and physical pain that you are suffering. He understands your hurts. Thank Him that no matter how great the trial, He will not allow you to suffer more than you can bear.
Paul tells us that he discovered something in adversity that he had never seen before—the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ. How could he come to that conclusion when facing such life-threatening trials as the ones mentioned in Acts 14:19? How is God's grace sufficient for the trials you are facing?
Take a moment to claim the promises of God written in 2 Corinthians 9:8.
God always provides abundant strength for each adversity that we are called to face. We need only to call out to Him from an attitude of humble submission. Remember, there is a God-designed goal hidden within each trial we face. When we surrender our rights in the adversity, God assumes the responsibility for the pain and disappointment. He takes your yielded position and accomplishes all He wants to accomplish in your life. When you are in the pit, God is at His pinnacle.
According to Isaiah 40:29, God gives strength to whom?
"He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power."
How does God personally respond to your pain and weaknesses?
A Turning Point For Spiritual Growth
If you want God's best and to be used by Him, you will have to travel the road of adversity at some point in your life. For that reason alone, we can conclude that God's purpose for adversity is not bad. Sadly though, many people allow adversity to become a major point of setback and defeat. That is not God's plan or will for our lives. He has designed adversity—regardless of its source—to become a turning point from which you take your greatest leap forward in spiritual growth.
A major part of our spiritual growth comes from the times spent struggling in the throes of adversity. That is when you find out what your faith is made of, how much you really know about your position in Christ, and what your true view of God is.
If everything is going great, then your view of God is probably one of awe and wonder. He is seen as a good, kind, merciful, loving God. But should you find out tomorrow morning that you have lost your job, your daughter has run away from home and is using drugs, or your wife is having deep emotional problems, then your view of God can be suddenly and seriously put to the test.
Adversity always reveals our true view of God. When trouble strikes, does God change? (Hebrews 13:8) Does His plan for your life change? (Jeremiah 29:11).
It also reveals the way we see ourselves. Many times when tragedy strikes we find ourselves thinking, Lord, what have I done now? Why are you doing this to me? We begin to look at ourselves with low self-esteem, and that is not the way God views us.
What is God's view of you? Take a moment to write out the way that you think He views you based on the promises of Scripture. (1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:4; Ephesians 1:3-5; Ephesians 2:1-10)
Whenever God sees you He sees a saint—sometimes struggling, sometimes falling but justified, redeemed, forgiven, and reconciled unto Him. He sees a saint full of His unconditional love, indwelt by His presence, sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise whose name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. He sees you on your way to heaven with purpose and direction in your life. Sadly, though, we many times fail to see ourselves in that light.
Another thing that adversity reveals is the value we place on our material possessions. Have you surrendered everything to Jesus? Suppose God took away something that had great value to you. What would your response be?
God owns everything. If you have never acknowledged His ownership, take a moment to do so now.
Adversity Reveals The Truth About Ourselves
We often think we have opened our hands and given all we have to God, but in actuality we have not. Sometimes it is shocking to find out where we have placed our priorities concerning material possessions.
Adversity reveals our weaknesses and our strengths. Some people are almost wiped out by trials. Others learn to stand in the confidence of God's ability. They have an overwhelming sense of stability and immovable strength. Nothing seems altered. They weather the storm, head held high, confident, bold, not repressing anything. They are absolutely assured that their God is going to see them through the heartache.
Adversity reveals our willingness to forgive. There are some adversities that deeply test our ability to extend and receive forgiveness. You may think you can forgive anyone because you are a Christian, but can you? Is there a person in your life that you have refused to forgive? Adversity has a way of revealing our lack of forgiveness. You may want to take a moment and bring that person's name before the Father.
Until you are willing to forgive them, there will always be a tearing in your heart when it comes to the things of God. That in itself is a very real part of adversity.
Adversity also shows us where we stand in our faith. Do we doubt God? Do we thank Him for His faithfulness in the stormy, heart-wrenching times? Can we trust Him when He says that He will never leave or forsake us? Adversity is God's most accurate barometer for faith. It also reveals our endurance level. None of us know how much physical or emotional pain we can withstand.
Right now, right where you are—remember, God has put a limit on all adversity. Because you are a child of God, Jesus Christ is living inside of you. He knows how much you can bear. We are capable of withstanding the pressure only because of our relationship to Jesus Christ. We can endure the suffering and hardship to the limit God has given.
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all." Psalm 34:19
"Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." Psalm 103:13-14
Three Principles That Are Basic To Adversity
I believe that when we are learning and maturing, even in the midst of tremendous adversity, God is excited because He sees His purpose being fulfilled. We are growing spiritually, becoming stronger in areas of weakness, and conforming to the likeness of Christ. God gets excited when we respond correctly to adversity.
Three principle threads are woven into all adversity:
In handling adversity, we need to remember that from God's viewpoint, adversity is His choice tool for building godly, spiritual character into our lives. Until we experience heartache, disappointment, and pain, we are not properly equipped for service.
Adversity usually comes in the areas where we feel the most confident.
God has a design. His ultimate design is to conform your life to the likeness of Christ. He has something in mind. God allows adversity to mold and shape us. Gold is refined by fire. Iron is shaped, molded, and beaten only after being intensely heated.
The good side to adversity is that we begin to understand God's design for us personally. We see that He has chosen a particular area of our lives in which to work. Romans 8:28 is true whether we choose to believe it or not.
We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
Goals Of Adversity
What do you think God has in mind when He allows adversity? There are several goals that I believe God wants to accomplish by allowing suffering and heartache. Adversity. . .
Gets our attention
Delivers us from pride
Reveals our weaknesses and strengths
Increases our hatred of sin
Demonstrates the faithfulness of God
Strengthens our faith
Removes pride and self-centeredness
Prepares us for future service
Enables us to comfort others facing adversity
The Victorious Key
IF you want to turn adversity into something good in life, then you must respond properly. Blaming, denying, escaping, and giving in to self-pity are not right responses. When we respond correctly—by trusting God, yielding ourselves and all we have to Him, asking Him to walk with us to help us bear the hurt and pain—then we experience firsthand the faithfulness of God.
One day you will look back at the adversity and you will ask, "How did I ever come through this?" There is only one way—the grace of God. Paul said Jesus told him, "My grace is sufficient for you." Nothing else will strengthen you, hold you, carry you, protect you, cover you, and love you like the grace of God. It is His unmerited favor that shouts of His wondrous love and compassion, "This is my child,
(Your name). And you belong to Me, and I have a plan, a purpose for your life."
Whatever you are facing, God loves you; and He is willing to take you right where you are today and change your life if you will let Him. Adversity does not have to end in defeat. It can be the point of the greatest advancement in your own walk with God if you will let Him do His work.
The Father's Heart
Is there anywhere safer than in the hand of omnipotence? Is there anywhere more glorious than in the hand of unconditional love? Only that which God allows can touch that which is under His eternal care. Pray this prayer to God as you acknowledge your dependence on Him. He is always available to you.
Heavenly Father, I want to thank You that Your love for me is unconditional. And that no matter what I am facing, You have promised to be in it with me.
There are times that the pain seems too much for me to bear. Thank You that those are the times You have promised to bear my burdens for me. (Matthew 11:28-29) I confess that I have doubted, been angry, and blamed others for my situation. Lord, I have even blamed You. Please teach me to trust You through this trial. Draw me close to You that I might be hidden in Your protective care.
I pray that my eyes will be turned toward You. Let me come into a full awareness that I am resting in Your omnipotent care and unconditional love. Amen.
1 Peter 1:3-9