Merriam Webster defines adversity this way;
“a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune”
It is further derived then from the Middle English adversite, which means “opposition, hostility, misfortune, hardship”
I think we all understand what adversity is after what we have seen in the world during the last few years. We have either lived it or felt it through someone we love. Adversities can either make us get serious about our prayer life or drive us further away from God depending on our attitude. We all go through trials sometime in our life. Some folks it seems have much more than others. But we can be assured that God is able to use each trial we go through to increase our faith and ultimately bring glory to His son, Jesus.
“Why do we even have these trials?” you may ask. Adversity comes about in our life from three different sources.
Firstly, God sometimes creates a trial to test our faith, such as when He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. I can’t imagine placing any child on an altar to take its life as a willing sacrifice. Thankfully, God does not put trials on us greater than we are able to bear without providing a means of escape.1 God provided a substitute sacrifice for Abraham, a way to escape this trial, because he was obedient to God’s command. And because of Abraham’s faith and obedience during this trial, we are still blessed today.
Genesis 22:17-18 (17) That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; (18) And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
“all the nations of the earth” That’s us today. When we get to heaven we need to tell Abraham how grateful we are that he was obedient in that trial.
Secondly, adversities can come our way from attacks by someone else or even Satan himself, through no fault of our own. Job is a well known example of this type of adversity. Poor old Job probably never knew while he was here on earth what caused his horrible trial. He also didn’t know that his story would be told for thousands of years to come. How often have we been comforted by Job’s story when we face things we don’t understand? Through his story we can see the sovereignty of God. He reminds us that God is not taken by surprise by the circumstances that so easily upset us. God is fully in control of the situation and already has a plan for how He will use it to strenghten our faith, if we simply stay steadfast in our obedience to Him.
The third way that adversities attack us is where I think we see God’s great mercy and grace most clearly. Sometimes we just bring on the adversities ourselves. We know that disobedience or rebellion will get us in trouble. But sometimes, we get a little to comfortable with our abilities and start making decisions, big and small, without seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. We may be okay for a while, but eventually we’ll make a wrong decision that gets us in trouble. Thankfully, God knew before the foundations of the world about our times of rebellion, our times of disobedience, our times of simply ignoring His divine guidance. Therefore He made a plan to bring us through those times of self-inflicted adversities and make something beautiful out of the messes we make. The story of Jonah is an example of God using a rebellious and disobedient servant to show His power over the sea and a big fish. Even with Jonah’s bad attitude God still used him to bring a wicked city to repentance.
Adverse circumstances can sometimes make us want to throw up our hands and quit. If we allow them, struggles and trials can move us away from God. Many times when problems arise our instinct is to try to fix them. As Christians though, we know that we need to allow God to fix our problems. But then our sinful nature comes out again, and we tend to try to figure out how a problem should be fixed and then we pray for God to fix it our way. Anyone else besides me guilty on that one? That doesn’t ever really work out does it? The problem with that way of thinking is that when we can’t see any way to fix a problem then we don’t bother asking God because we don’t know how to tell Him how to fix it. That puts us in dangerous territory. Even if we do continue praying, we aren’t surrendering our all to Him and any prayer is hindered because we aren’t dealing with the trial. I know from painful experience that God will let us just wallow there until we’re ready to surrender the problem to Him and trust Him to do whatever He wants to with it. When we do finally surrender, God first works on our heart to root out our rebellious and prideful nature. Then He might change our circumstances, or more likely He makes us realize that we are safe with Him no matter what trial we are in. The size of our adversity is insignificant compared to the size of our God.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.James 1:2-3 (English Standard Version)
Next week in Part 2 we will look at three benefits from the adversities we endure.