There are no tales told about sailing smooth seas.
I am puzzled by the response of many Christians when they face adversity. They seem surprised and struggle to understand why what is happening is happening to them. They wonder if they have fallen out of favor with God and are in some way being punished or judged. I find that to be a curious response. It isn’t as if the Bible keeps us in the dark about that fact that we will face adversity. Consider just a few passages: Job 5:7 Man is born for trouble. As sparks fly upward; Matthew 6:34 Each day has enough trouble of its own;John 15:20 Remember the word I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me they will also persecute you; 2 Timothy 3:12 All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted; John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not for a moment suggesting that we should invite adversity or tribulation or persecution but I am suggesting that we should not be surprised by it and when it comes (and it will) to see it as an opportunity not as a judgment. Proverbs 3:5-6 says: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Why then, when challenges come do we say “I don’t understand why this is happening?” It is not our purpose to “understand” but to “trust” and allow Him to “direct”.
I find it very interesting what Jesus said to one of His closest friends, Simon Peter, when he was going to be persecuted. Consider these words in Luke 22:31: “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded permission to sift you as wheat.It would not be surprising for Jesus to say at this point: “But don’t worry, my beloved friend, I have not given him that permission, you will be spared the adversity he wants to bring on you. But no, that is not what He said. What He says in verse 32 is: “but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” He didn’t spare Peter the trouble that would come upon him but out of love for Peter saw it as an opportunity for his faith to grow and be able to influence and encourage others as a result.
So, how should we view adversity when it comes? As an opportunity to grow in faith. When it occurs, we should pray that the Lord accomplish His purposes and deliver us through the adversity not from it. We are to “give thanks in all things” not “for” all things. We are to be grateful that the Lord has granted us this opportunity. Paul says in Philippians 1:29: “For it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him but to suffer for His sake”. It is actually an act of grace that we suffer adversity. I admit that’s a tough pill to swallow but it is true nonetheless. When we begin to see adversity through God’s eyes and begin to understand that it is part of the shaping and molding and dross removal that God wants to accomplish so that we become more like Christ, it becomes clear that adversity is necessary. It is through adversity that we learn about faith, trust, humility, submission, obedience and ultimately about the depth of God’s love for us. He doesn’t allow adversity because He is angry with us but because He loves us and wants the very best for us.
Because He loves us, God does not leave us defenseless. Psalm 46:1 says: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Proverbs 18:10 says: The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and is safe.He is there every step of the way to strengthen and encourage us so that we may bear up under the stress of adversity and experience the victory of overcoming it by His grace.
So, the next time adversity comes your way (or maybe you are experiencing it now), see it as an opportunity to grow in faith and watch to see how the Lord works to deliver you through it. Then you will be able to tell others about how God worked on your behalf and thus encourage them as well.