John Adams, the second President of the United States, once said “People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity“. The American Revolution and the ensuing Declaration of Independence from British tyranny is one of the most revered moments of American history. Arguably counter to Paul’s teaching in Romans 13, it nevertheless serves as an appropriate backdrop and case-in-point for today’s devotional (made all the more poignant given the recent 4th of July celebrations in the US).
It was through much adversity and hardship that the United States of America was formed nearly 250 years ago, and it’s often the same for us as individuals. The bumps and bruises of life help mould our character, attitudes and values. As a Bible believing Christian, we learn that this is often how God chooses to work in our lives. Like the loving Father that He is, God allows hardship to test us and teach us to trust in Him (cf. Heb. 12:4-11; Prov. 3:11-12).
When we start out on the difficult road of the Christian life, we may often resent the hardships and difficulties that come our way. We may even stoop to blaming God for them. As we mature in our faith and get to know our Lord more intimately through the careful study of His word, we begin to recognise, and even appreciate, the benefits that come from facing adversity.
How many personal benefits can you identify from your most difficult experiences? It’s an unusual challenge to undertake. Spend some time reflecting on your life journey, making note of all the blessings you have realised from the adversities you have faced.
Here are three benefits that came to my mind, reinforced by a few relevant Bible passages.
Adversity checks our pride and creates dependence on God
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)
Adversity strengthens us for God’s work and prepares us for our eternal glory
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12; cf. Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Jas. 1:13; 1 Pet. 4:12-14)
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:3-5)
Adversity helps to foster empathy for others, leading us to acts of service and greater unity
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.” (2 Cor. 1:3-7; cf. Col. 1:24; 1 Peter 2:20-25)
With God’s help, let’s prayerfully strive to redeem the adversity in our lives. Let us not let Satan win by succumbing to despair or self-pity. Let us thank the Lord for what He is doing through our adversity for our eternal good.
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7; cf. Jas. 1:2-4)
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:37-39)