When All Seems Hopeless – God’s Word on Adversity
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 – We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
Troubles come with a multitude of names-accidents, afflictions, bereavement, calamities, difficulties, disappointments, disasters, failures, hard times, hurts, miseries, misfortunes, reverses, ruin, sufferings, tragedies, trials, tribulations, troubles, or woes. They come sometimes unexpectedly, and sometimes after repeated warnings. Adversities may be temporarily discomforting or permanently disabling, even life threatening or life taking. Some adversities are merely higher hurdles over which we can climb with a little more effort, while others permanently wound us and we must find a way to triumph despite them. Adversity literally means “something acting against you.” Nowhere is this concept more clearly presented than in the Bible, which makes it clear that God himself sometimes sends adversity either as a punishment for sin or simply as a way to test and strengthen our character. Other times Satan sends adversity to try to get us to sin. And God allows it. And sometimes we bring adversity on ourselves by acting foolishly or sinfully. And finally, there is the adversity that comes out of nowhere through no cause of our own. The one thing you can count on about adversity is that it will come. We all will have troubles, so it is not a matter of will we or won’t we-the issue is what we will do with adversity when it comes.
Jesus told his disciples, “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) When we are faced with adversity we tend to ask questions; why did this happen? am I being punished for something I did wrong? why did God do this, or how could he allow it to happen? Many times we already know the answers, it is just a matter of being truthful with ourselves; admitting that we brought the adversity upon ourselves either by means of our own wrongdoing or by neglecting to allow God’s wisdom to be our guide. But what of those times when we cannot easily recognize the answers? God has much to say about adversity and the best way for us to handle it when it comes. There are some circumstances in which we may never know the answer as to why things happen the way they do, but one thing is an absolute certainty-God is on his throne and he is in control!
Some people may find it hard to fathom that God would actually send adversity into their lives. After all, don’t troubles just happen?
The Bible tells us that there is an ultimate punishment for sin, which is death. However, there are also consequences that we must face now for committing sin. Think in terms of stealing something from someone. Stealing is a violation of God’s law and can result in eternal separation from God, but it is also a sinful act that carries a consequence or punishment of jail or imprisonment here and now. If we knowingly commit sin, we should expect nothing less than to face punishment by a Holy and Righteous God.
“…I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the Lord: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.” (Jeremiah 21:14)
Troubles do often “just happen” because we live in a sinful world, and God usually allows the cycle of sin to play itself out (for now). But just as a loving parent brings adversity into the life of a child through discipline, God may also bring adversity into our lives by correcting us when we do wrong. This is for our benefit, not harm. God may also bring difficulties into our lives to strengthen and prepare us for life ahead. If we find that we are facing troubles caused by our own doing, we should ask forgiveness of those things that we have done wrong and seek to set them right.
So does this mean that God enjoys punishing us?
Absolutely not! God loves us and does not take any joy in having to discipline his children when they do wrong. God’s love for us is pure and intense; he does not want to see us suffer! But our suffering would be worse if he did not sometimes correct us. We try to teach our children to be obedient so that they will not come to any harm, so they will mature and know the difference between right and wrong; and we do these things because we love them. God is the same way with his own children. The greatest example of God’s love for us is given to us in the book of Romans: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
The Bible is filled with scripture that expresses God’s love for his children. It is his desire that we be good and do what is right, but even when we make mistakes and we face discipline for those mistakes it is important to remember that God still loves us!
Being faithful and obedient to God may sometimes bring adversity.
Often, no matter how well we may obey God and no matter how right we may try to live our lives, we still find ourselves faced with trouble. This is because Satan, who is our enemy, will stop at nothing to try to keep us from following God. There are also people who are opposed to what is good and right, and Satan will often employ them to cause problems and create adversity in our lives, all in an effort to thwart our efforts to serve God.
Adversity may be a sign that you are being faithful to God. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) We should count these as blessings though they be hard to handle sometimes. Rest assured, if you are living your life as “Christ-like” as you can, you are at odds with Satan and he will attack you. So, what do we do when we find ourselves under attack? We continue to trust in God. Pray to him and ask for his help. Whatever we do, we must not give in to these attacks. We must recognize that God is in control no matter what and trust him!
Is there anything that I can do to avoid trouble and adversity?
As unusual as it may sound, avoiding adversity may not be best or what God has in mind for you. Though it may bruise you, it builds you up and strengthens your faith. You’ve probably heard the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” there is more truth in this than you may realize. There have been countless people who have been stricken with cancer or other forms of decease who have had to struggle with their illnesses, sometimes overcoming them and sometimes not, but always they have learned or gained new understanding, strength of character and faith in God, and it has changed them into someone they otherwise may never have become. It is hard to accept adversity sometimes. When things happen to us and we are faced with an unexpected set of circumstances, we will often find that the only way to move past them is to accept them.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
The apostle Paul came to an understanding of moving past adversity by acceptance. In writing to the church at Corinth, he explained the adversity that he faced and describing it as “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:8) he prayed to the Lord three times asking that it depart from him; “And he (The Lord) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Adversity helps us understand Christ better because he suffered for us. This deepens our relationship with him.
When I suffer trouble and adversity, am I alone?
It may feel that we are all alone when we are going through a hard time. It may seem that no one understands or cares about the troubles we are having, but nothing could be farther from the truth. God’s is always listening for the cries of his children. There is never a moment when he is too busy with anything, even managing the world, to listen. God has both a listening ear and a caring heart. If you are one of God’s children, he is always with you even if it seems that you are alone. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isaiah 43:2)
God’s people are there for you as well. When one Christian suffers, it should hurt us all, for we are all members of Christ’s body-unified. If one part of our body hurts, it sets up sympathetic pain throughout our entire body. So it should be in the body of Christ. “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) Compassion and caring is a significant part of Christian character. Just as Christ loves us and cares for us, we ought to love and care for one another. Just like any family – when troubles come, the family of God should stand together and face it together. There truly is strength in numbers, and “…If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).
How can I stay close to God when I am suffering adversity in my life?
There are several things we must realize in order to maintain a close relationship with God during times of trial and adversity:
First, recognize that God has not abandoned us in times of suffering and trial. He does not ignore the suffering of the needy. He has not turned and walked away. He listens to our cries for help (Psalm 22:24).
Secondly, Recognize that suffering is not forever. In the dark hours of the night of suffering it is hard to think of a morning of joy and gladness. But the tears of suffering are like seeds of joy (Psalm 126:5-6).
Third, Recognize that God does not want to see us suffer. A loving God does not enjoy the disciplines of life which must come our way. But his compassionate love and care see us through our times of discipline and suffering (Lamentations 3:32-33).
Finally, Recognize that Jesus himself suffered for us. Christ suffered the agonies of the cross, which not only embraced incredible physical suffering but also the unthinkable suffering of bearing the sins of the world (John 3:16).
Although adversity may seem to come at us from out of the blue and overwhelm us at times, we can handle it if we trust and rely upon Christ Jesus. When we suffer, God is there to offer us comfort. When we are in pain, God will provide the healing that we need. When we are in despair, God can bring peace and contentment into our hearts and minds. When we feel all alone, Christ is there with us to hold our hand and if need be, to carry us through. No matter what we may face in life it is God’s wisdom, mercy and love that can see us through!
If you have found yourself facing troubles and adversities in your own life, and you feel like you have been left to face them alone. Or, perhaps you just feel like there is something weighting you down emotionally and you can’t understand what that “something” is. I would ask, have you acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord in your life?
If you have never accepted the Lord, Jesus Christ into your life; never experienced his great power and love, his merciful forgiveness and kindness, this is your opportunity. Right here and now, you can experience the saving power of one who truly loves you and wants the opportunity to help you with your problems. There is nothing complicated about it or complex. All you need do is call upon him.
Dear Jesus, I call upon you now. Please forgive me of my sins and come into my life. I believe in you Lord Jesus, that you suffered and died upon the cross for my sins and that you were resurrected from the tomb and right now are seated at the right hand of the father. Please help me to follow you, and to live my life according to your will. Help me to turn away from my sinful nature and be more like you. I thank you Lord for your mercy and forgiveness. In Jesus name, amen.
Romans 10:9-10 says; “that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”