Summary: Exploring possible reasons God may allow adversities to come into our lives
I Peter 4:12-16 "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [are ye]; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or [as] a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf."
Why do God's people have adversity? As David asked, "Why do the wicked seem to prosper at the expense of God's people?" Why do terrible tragedies occur in the midst of times of great success and prosperity? Why do a multiplicity of calamities, as in the case of Job, seem to come one upon the heels of another? Why does the topography of trouble seem to continually undulate, taking us on a spiritual roller coaster ride? Why in our time of greatest distress, do our most heartfelt petitions and pleas seem to fall upon a deaf ear and fail to penetrate a heaven made of brass?
Adversity can be the deadliest source of discouragement or the greatest impetus for spiritual growth in the life of a believer. The difference depends upon and is determined by our understanding, attitude and response to the pressure involved. But just why might God allow adversity into the life of a child of God whom He loves?
Adversity may be God's way of getting our attention. It is His purpose for our focus to be upon Him and His Son. We are commanded to love Him first. "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." (Col. 3:2) We are called to seek His kingdom first. " But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; .." (Matt. 6:33) If we instead focus our life on the world and its standards and priorities, we may invite and accentuate adversity. When we become absorbed in our own personal plans, projects, programs, ambitions, goals and friendships, God may patiently try to get our attention. When we leave God out of our life and our priorities and decisions, inevitably problems and pressures arise too large and complicated for us to solve. When adversity continues and our human strength is drained, Christ's wonderful invitation to the weary and heavy laden becomes increasingly attractive.
God's ultimate purpose in getting our attention is to conform us to the image and life-style of Christ. When we become too busy with our own selfish will, God may intervene to show us His way of peace and joy and His schedule and priorities for our lives. Based upon the purpose of getting our attention and focusing our life upon Jesus Christ and the will of God, adversity can be good for us. "[It is] good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes." (Psalm 119:71)
Adversity may be God's way of reassuring us of His love. Real love must be tough. To love means to care enough to rebuke and correct. Satan may try to convince us God has forsaken us when we are corrected. Chastening is proof of His love and that He is preparing us for greater things. Physical and emotional pain serve a real purpose. God shows His love by sometimes painfully reinforcing the dangers in our life. When we finally recognize God's loving hand of correction and turn to Him, our experience will have been beneficial and spiritually maturing. "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteous- ness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Heb. 12:11)
Those of us who were blessed to have parents who cared enough to chasten us, may well remember that when our fathers applied the strap our best response was to display a repentant attitude and snuggle up close to him. That way the licks were normally lighter and shorter in duration. God's purpose in chastening is to draw us back closer to Him and reassure us of His infinite love for us.
Adversity may be God calling us to self-examination. One purpose of chastening is to achieve introspection, repentance and restoration. "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." (I Cor. 11:31) This process begins with self-examination. The instrument for effective self-examination is the Sword of the Spirit wielded by the Spirit Himself. "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24) When our sin becomes known to us, conviction, confession conversion (a turning away) should follow. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh [them] shall have mercy". (Prov. 28:13) But if in adversity we become embittered and engrossed in examining and blaming others, God cannot use this process to bless us. We learn early in life to switch blame and lay down a smoke screen of criticism to cover up our own faults and deficiencies. Jesus gave us the parable of the beam and mote in the eye to caution us against this common error.