Do you ever have days where you feel sucker punched by life? Perhaps you received a medical report that contained bad news. Perhaps you lost your job or received unfair criticism from people you work hard to serve. We all have days when we feel nothing goes right and wonder why. Sometimes it’s not only a day, but feels like we’re in a difficult season of life. What truths does God offer in the Bible to help us internalize our trials in a healthy way?
When life hits me hard, I lean on my favorite Christian mantra: the Lord is never taken by surprise by our circumstances. He knows our every thought, our every step, and the number of hairs on our head at all times. We are never out of His sight! When my day feels like it’s unraveling or a relationship feels challenged, I find comfort that God is not surprised. Like you, I want to understand why God allows adversity to happen. What good can come from it? The Bible offers multiple possibilities. Here are a few that give me peace in the midst of life’s storms.
God allows difficult circumstances in our lives for a benevolent reason. We read in Romans, “all things work for good of those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purposes.” (Rom 8:28) I believe that whatever He allows into our lives comes with a sacred intention. If we accept that trials come with a divine purpose, then we can embrace that “God is for us, not against us.” (Rom 8:31) We can rest in His double-barreled promise found in Jeremiah 29:11-12, “For I know the plans that I have for you. They are plans to prosper you, not harm you, but to give you a hope and a future.”
Every Sunday evening I listen to Andy Stanley’s sermon online. Recently, he taught another paradigm that can help us process difficult situations in a healthy way. He shared that adversity comes with a purpose and a promise. The text Andy used was from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul experienced a “thorn in his flesh,” which many theologians believe was a recurring physical affliction. Paul pleaded with God three times to remove it, but God did not. How did Paul internalize the torment he was feeling?
First, he recognized God’s purpose in his adversity: God wanted to keep Paul from becoming conceited (2 Cor 12:7). Isn’t it true that pride can stunt our spiritual growth? It’s the one sin that can take root in our hearts without us realizing it. God doesn’t receive glory when we’re caught up in ourselves. As long as we are something, God cannot be all.
Second, he recognized that adversity comes with a promise: God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Once Paul understood this, he couldn’t wait to “boast all the more gladly about his weaknesses.” Paul said, “For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, and in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)
As much as Paul’s writing inspires me, it’s hard to delight in hardship! As soon as we feel the “thorn,” we ask God to remove it. If God were to publish the number of times I’ve prayed for Him to remove pain in my life, you would read a thick catalog! We prefer to conquer our weakness and be freed from it, but God wants us to rest and rejoice in it. We think our weaknesses will hinder us in our life and service to God, but God tells us that weakness is the secret of strength and success. God promises that His power will rest on us and “be made perfect in us.” (2 Cor 12:9)
When adversity strikes, let’s remember a few truths to help us internalize it:
• The Lord is never taken by surprise by our circumstances.
• All adversity has a sacred intention.
• God allows adversity to keep us from becoming conceited.
• God’s power in our weaknesses is the secret of our strength and success.
Do you have a favorite Bible passage or two that helps you internalize the adversities you experience?