Like it or not, life is essentially unfair. Illnesses. Business setbacks. Injuries. Family strife. They all fall under the general heading of adversity. Call it hardship or bad luck or affliction or anything else, the result is still the same. Life is essentially unfair. But since it happens to everyone, and no one is singled out, that makes it fair.
I was recently rummaging through some papers I had squirreled away and forgotten about. In them were some notes I took from a preacher whose name I failed to make note of. But I would like to share them here for anyone who might benefit from them.
There are five typical responses when adversity hits:
1. Self-pity: feeling sorry for oneself soon degenerates into anger which soon degrades into resentment and bitterness.
2. Coldness toward God: bitterness becomes revenge and targets God for letting the situation happen.
3. Faith goes into a tailspin: all hope and optimism dim and eventually disappears altogether.
4. Depression: bitterness, revenge and pessimism team up to dig a mental hole to hide out in.
5. Self-destruction: depression, if allowed to run its course, can become so painful that you look for your own way to ease the pain. Alcohol. Drugs. Promiscuity. Over-eating. If not intervened, suicide can follow.
Survival requires viewing adversity through God’s eyes and realizing His purpose for allowing it:
1. Get our attention: God whispers during our joy, but He shouts in our pain.
2. Eliminate pride: He forces me to acknowledge that I am into something that I cannot handle alone.
3. Hatred of sin: bitterness, alienation, faithlessness, hiding out and self-destruction are sins.
4. Point up my inadequacy and dependence on Him: self-sufficiency and independence are myths.
5. Demonstrate God’s faithfulness to me: I am never closer to God than when I am on my face.
6. Equip me for service: it qualifies me to be a comfort to others who are experiencing adversity.
What adversity reveals to me about me:
1. The truth about my belief in God: no one is happy in some kind of deep affliction or problem, but it is still possible to be pleasant and optimistic–if my eyes are turned Christward.
2. The truth about my real self: when all is well, it is not hard to paint on a smile and pretent to be joyful, but within adversity, if I am really a grouch inside, the grouch will emerge and express himself.
3. The truth about my attitude toward others: do I work to not be an unnecessary burden to others, or do I use my predicament as an excuse to make them jump through my hoops?
4. The truth about my faith’s depth and consistency: am I the same grateful child of God under the gun that I am when everything is going my way, or do I suck my thumb and pout?
How to continue on in my growth and maturity as a child of God:
1. Accept adversity as God’s best and most effective tool for growing me up, because what grows me up is what puts me on my knees. And if I am offended at being told I need to grow up, then I really need to grow up.
2. Recognize that adversity generally comes in an area of my life where God has been trying to get my attention.
3. Celebrate the fact that God has a divine purpose in all adversity, and that He is neither angry nor trying to destroy me. Instead of demanding of God, “Why me!?” I need to humbly ask of God, “What are You trying to teach me in this situation where I find myself?”