Adversity, My Teacher – Part 1
Adversity has many faces. Unimagined reverses toss Christians into confusion, disillusionment and despair. Despite the level of spiritual maturity, Christians are not exempt from troubles or emotional trauma. Adversity plays no favorites. Faithful Christians lose jobs daily, and homes too. Lives are devastated because of an unfaithful spouse, a problem child, financial stress, and troubles of every description.
Adversity crumbles the best of us
Adversity is a set of circumstances that make you feel trapped, your back against a wall – and you cannot see the top of the wall. Adversity may tender a feeling of desolation or failure, and your prayers are met with silence. Adversity is the downpour that breaks the dam, the spark that ignites a forest, and the faint rumble that erupts to volcanic proportions. Trouble piles upon trouble, and you feel like a cookie crumb trying to get back into the cookie; only you know you’ll be eaten if you do. Adversity is when everything goes wrong, nothing works, and you have no answers.
The Bible clearly illustrates that God is involved in our times of adversity. A classic example is in the Old Testament character, Jacob, who experienced an extended period of hardship in spite of his accumulated wealth.
After his mother had engineered the ingenious deception to his father, Isaac, by disguising Jacob as Esau, Jacob obtained the coveted birthright; but his troubles had only begun. Rebecca’s plan had backfired and Jacob’s life was in danger. His brother Esau planned to kill him for revenge. Jacob was on the run, not unlike us when our conniving catches up with us.
Pillow of Stones
“And he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep” (Genesis 28:11).
Regardless of how the stones were used, they do represent the hard places, the adversity. But in the process Jacob experienced an open heaven, and he was changed from a deceptive manipulator to a lover of God. God affirmed, Jacob have I loved. Jacob’s strength was greatest when he wrestled with God and wound up with a limp and the touch of God upon him. His life demonstrates how stones become bread when we learn to interpret our failures as God’s opportunities. When Jacob awoke he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not” (Genesis 28:16).
When adversity comes, we will experience a sense of spiritual abandonment if we are not aware of God “in this place.” We are then likely to blame, not only our circumstances, but also God Himself. We interpret our troubles as God thrusting us away from His love and care. Like Jacob, we try to run from trouble, not realizing God may be waiting at our destination. Since God has a purpose for each believer’s life, then periods of adversity must have deep, spiritual significance.
“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers” (Isaiah 30:20).
When we learn that troubles play a role in teaching us God’s character and nature, true spiritual growth and development takes place. As troubles are turned into His teachers in our lives, we become messages of hope to others. Learning to recognize the Lord’s hand in the midst of trouble is the secret to finding rest in the midst of adversity. We will learn to pursue the lessons learned from these unwelcome teachers of adversity.
–Penny E. Smith
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