Everywhere we look there are disasters, tragedies, trauma, misery, suffering, and loss. But what happens when adversity becomes close and personal? How does the Lord want us to respond when we come face to face with trials? And what is He trying to teach us through our difficulties?
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, the apostle Paul described the various forms of adversity he experienced in his service for Christ: imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, exposure, hunger, thirst, and other dangers. Why would the Lord allow Paul, the man who introduced the Roman world to Jesus Christ, to suffer like this and be killed?
From a human perspective, Paul’s suffering may seem unfair, but God used his hardships and pain to accomplish His will. During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. And his letter to the Philippians was filled with joy because he understood that through adversity God accomplishes His divine purposes and works for our ultimate good.
Here’s what we know about hardships:
Adversity is universal. It’s everywhere and can affect any area of our lives.
It’s impartial. Because we live in a fallen world, trouble comes to all of us—even believers, no matter what our financial, social, or educational status.
Adversity is painful. The pain can be physical, emotional, or relational, but whatever the source, it hurts.
Sometimes adversity comes suddenly. Life could be going on as normal when an accident or a negative report from the doctor leaves us unexpectedly devastated.
Times of adversity may be prolonged. Sometimes the emotional or physical pain continues for years.
It may be intense. We may hurt so badly that even those who try to bring comfort feel the pain.
Adversity is often beyond our control. We may feel helpless and have no answer for why God would allow us to go through it.
Are you going through a tough time? Take heart. The Lord is sovereign and He controls all adversity in our lives. That’s why it’s important to remember how much He loves us. If He allows us to go through pain, suffering, or loss, then He has something good He wants to accomplish in us.
When the apostle Paul understood that his “thorn in the flesh” was designed to keep him humble and dependent on Christ, he was able to say, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9). So ask the Lord to help you through your difficulties and trust Him to bring good from them, for He’s capable of all things.
This article was originally published on February 19, 2016, and is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message “An Intimate Look at Adversity,” which airs this weekend on TV.