One thing is certain in this life: We will have adversity. Call it what you will—trouble, trials, challenges—everyone experiences them. If you are not experiencing adversity now, maybe you’re just getting past a bad time or about to head into it. The Bible teaches us that we will have trouble in this world.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NIV)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. - James 1:2-3
So I wonder why we’re always surprised (me included) when adversity comes our way?
Adversity comes into our lives from a variety of reasons. It could be caused by unwise choices that we’ve made, other people may do something to cause it, Satan may be the source, or God may have allowed adversity into our lives. However, if we think of adversity as a tool, we might have a different perspective on it—a God perspective.
Imagine a gardener working in a flowerbed. The tools used to dig up and rake the ground loosen the packed soil to make it receptive to the new seeds. All of the useless matter is pushed away—dead leaves, roots from dead plants, weeds. What’s left after all that digging is the prepared soil. With careful attention and watering, a few seeds will produce a plant which will grow and bloom.
God uses adversity in our lives to for reasons such as: producing endurance, to test our faith and devotion to Christ, to purify and equip us, and to show us His greatness and love for us.
What it boils down to is this…
Adversity serves a bigger purpose--a Kingdom purpose.
We may think that annoying neighbor down the street who complains about everything serves no purpose except to upset the delicate neighborhood ecosystem. But, it does produce patience in us. It also reveals—shines light on—those hidden thoughts in us that we’ll just call “unloving.”
Another type of adversity we may encounter is when we are waiting on answers to prayer. A delay in fulfilling our desires may be more important to God, serving a purpose to prepare us. In that way, it produces a form of adversity. Paul was an example of this. His “thorn in the flesh” was a desire to he wished to have removed. He asked God to have it removed but that desire went unfulfilled. Although nobody knows for certain what this thorn in the flesh was, I’m sure it was something that caused Paul enough concern that he actually mentioned it in his letters. He had a legitimate desire to have that “thing” removed. Paul also spent a lot of time in prisons and fearing for his life. Even so, God chose to use those hard places in Paul’s life to advance His Kingdom and to teach Paul things that could not be learned any other way.
Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling says, "In the darkness of adversity, you are able to see more clearly the radiance of My (God’s) Face." This is so true. If God really is light, then His light will shine during those dark times. And we know from Scripture that God is light. In John 8:12, Jesus describes himself as “the light of the world.”
I know this is true in my own life. Adversity has produced fruit in my life that may not have come about any other way. I have seen God’s light in the midst of those dark times and I have felt His comfort during those times I felt I could not go on. I’ve called out to God and He rescued me many, many times. God is always faithful to answer.
Then call on me when you are in trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give me glory.” Psalm 50:15