Some Of God’s Purposes For Allowing Adversity In Our Life
James the Apostle recommended a surprising response to troubles: “My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations; Knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience. And patience hath a perfect work; that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing.” (James 1:2–4).
The Apostle Paul expressed a similar perspective on adversity: “And not only so; but we glory also in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience trial; and trial hope; And hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us. For why did Christ, when as yet we were weak, according to the time, die for the ungodly?” (Romans 5:3–6).
These Saints understood that in light of what Christ did for us by providing salvation, the difficulties we experience in this life take on new meaning. They are a means through which God works to accomplish His will in our lives: to shape us so that we reflect the character of Christ. (See Romans 8:28–30.) On the basis of this purpose, all adversity “works together” for our good and God’s glory.
Adversity gets our attention.
When adversity comes, we are forced to face problems and pressures that are too big for us to resolve. In this way, God gets our attention. We can’t continue to pursue our goals, tasks, and relationships in the same manner. We have to stop and evaluate our situation, ask God for wisdom, obey His Word, and trust Him to bring the help we need.
Troubles point out our weaknesses and prompt us to rely on God in ways that we wouldn’t unless we had significant needs. Christ’s invitation to those who are weary becomes very attractive in the midst of trials: “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28–30). Adversity is a classroom in which we can learn more of Christ and become more like Him.
As we come to God with our needs, our inward prayer should echo these words of the Psalmist: “To thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul.
O my God, I trust in thee: In thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed. ” (Psalm 25:1–2).
Adversity reminds us of our weaknesses.
The Apostle Paul knew what it meant to live with adversity that would not go away. He learned to see the good that God intended to bring to his life through it and to rejoice in God’s design. He wrote: “And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me. For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me. And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in 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 powerful.” (II Corinthians 12:7–10).
As we accept the unchangeable and embrace God’s purposes for our difficulties, we will experience the power of Christ in our lives. We can trust God to care for us and to provide all that we need. “As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear him:. For he knoweth our frame. He remembereth that we are dust ” (Psalm 103:13–14).
Adversity motivates us to cry out to God.
God responds to the cry of His children when they suffer. “The righteous cried, and the Lord heard them: and delivered them out of all their troubles. ” (Psalm 34:17).
We are to cry out to God with our voice. “I have cried to the Lord with my voice: and he hath heard me from his holy hill ” (Psalm 3:4).
We can cry out to God for mercy each day. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I have cried to thee all the day.” (Psalm 86:3).
We are to cry out to God in humility. “. . . He forgetteth not the cry of the humble” (Psalm 9:12).
We are to cry out to God with a pure heart. “If I have looked at iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Psalm 66:18).
Adversity is an assurance of God’s fatherly love and care.
Wise discipline brings a child to maturity. Just as a loving father helps his children learn and grow through the discipline he carries out in their lives, so God uses adversity to help us grow in holiness and become more like Him. When we persevere through hardship, we have proof that we are God’s children.
"For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons; for what son is there, whom the father doth not correct? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons. Moreover we have had fathers of our flesh, for instructors, and we reverenced them: shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits, and live? And they indeed for a few days, according to their own pleasure, instructed us: but he, for our profit, that we might receive his sanctification. Now all chastisement for the present indeed seemeth not to bring with it joy, but sorrow: but afterwards it will yield, to them that are exercised by it, the most peaceable fruit of justice. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, And make straight steps with your feet: that no one, halting, may go out of the way; but rather be healed." (Hebrews 12:6–13).
Adversity motivates us to fear the Lord.
Adversity reminds us that God is present and we are accountable to Him for our every thought, word, and action. God’s Word reveals that the fear of the Lord is the key to life, wisdom, and lasting achievement. (See Proverbs 9:10, 14:27, and 22:4.)
If we lose our awareness of God and begin to think and act as if He does not exist, God often allows painful reminders of our need for Him, just as He did with the nation of Israel. “And the wrath of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said: Behold this nation hath made void my covenant, which I had made with their fathers, and hath despised to hearken to my voice: I also will not destroy the nations which Josue left, when he died: That through them I may try Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord, and walk in it, as their fathers kept it, or not.” (Judges 2:20–22).
Adversity strengthens our hatred for sin.
The pain of adversity helps us recognize the deception of sin. Our hatred of evil will increase when we realize how sin keeps us from living in a way that honors God and how it damages the lives of those we love.
God wants us to know that He will not ignore sin. “. . . God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7–8).
If we could only perceive the final cost of our sin, we would shrink from committing it. Therefore, in His mercy God exposes secret sin, and He allows others to see its devastating consequences. In this way, we are warned not to be fooled by “. . . the pleasures of sin,” which last for a season. (See Hebrews 11:25.)
Adversity is a call for self-examination.
The discipline of the Lord is a part of the life of every Christian, and adversity should motivate us to examine our lives and discern if we are disobeying God’s Word in any area. Jesus warned the complacent church of Laodicea, “Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore, and do penance.” (Revelation 3:19).
God’s Word should be our guide in self-examination. Many cause-and-effect sequences are recorded in Scripture for our instruction and warning. When we experience specific difficulties in our lives, we should discern if they are consequences of sin. The following verses are examples of the connection between our actions and the circumstances in our lives:
“He that hideth his sins, shall not prosper: but he that shall confess, and forsake them, shall obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13).
“He that rendereth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.” (Proverbs 17:13).
“Pride goeth before destruction: and the spirit is lifted up before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18).
“Honour thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with a promise: That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest be long lived upon earth” (Ephesians 6:2–3).
The observance of the Lord’s Supper is a time when God calls us to self-examination. As we regularly remember Jesus’ sacrifice, we are to seriously consider our behavior in light of God’s Word. “But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.” (I Corinthians 11:28–30).
Adversity exposes pride.
The sin of pride is the source of many difficulties, as the following Scriptures point out:
“Among the proud there are always contentions:. . . .” (Proverbs 13:10).
“Where pride is, there also shall be reproach: but where humility is, there also is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2).
“Humiliation followeth the proud: and glory shall uphold the humble of spirit.” (Proverbs 29:23).
“Because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted. ” (Luke 14:11).
God detests pride, but humility prompts the gift of His grace. “. . . God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Be subject therefore to God, but resist the devil, and he will fly from you.” (James 4:6–7). Hard times expose our pride, because they highlight our need for God and for others. In the midst of adversity, seek to grow in humility, and receive God’s grace with gratitude.
Adversity is evidence of spiritual warfare.
A Christian must be aware of the spiritual battle that rages between God and the enemy, Satan. Learn to recognize that sometimes adversity comes in the form of spiritual warfare through weariness, confusion, division, and spiritual oppression.
In the midst of these trials, do not become overwhelmed or yield to the temptation to give up. The Apostle Paul encourages us to be strong, courageous, and prepared to be good soldiers: “Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints:” (Ephesians 6:11–18).
Adversity is God’s method of purifying our faith.
Faith is essential for living the Christian life, because the ways of God are opposite to the natural inclinations of man. Thus, adversity may come at the hand of those who mock God’s principles, or it may come when we violate God’s principles. In either case, adversity is designed to strengthen our faith.
“. . . now you must be for a little time made sorrowful in divers temptations:
That the trial of your faith (much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (I Peter 1:6–7).
The development of patience is another benefit of having our faith purified by the fire of adversity. “. . . The trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:3). It is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises of God. Be “. . . followers of them, who through faith and patience shall inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12).
Adversity is a reminder to pray for our authorities.
Those who are in positions of responsibility are supposed to provide protection for those under their care. When there are failures in the life of a leader, his “umbrella of protection” weakens, and those who are under that authority become more vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. As we experience the pressures of temptation, we should realize that those who are in authority over us are also undergoing temptations and are in need of our intercessory prayer.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we should intercede for those in authority over us so that we can lead a quiet and peaceful life: “I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity.” (I Timothy 2:1–2).
Adversity is a signal to reevaluate priorities.
In troubled times, we need to consider our priorities and discern if we are spending enough time preserving the most important aspects of our lives: our relationships with God and others. We should regularly evaluate the health of our relationships and invest the time and effort needed to maintain them honorably.
When we do not spend time with God, memorizing and meditating on His Word, and praying, we miss out on one of the important means God uses to give us wisdom and to change our hearts. We also rob others of the spiritual encouragement, direction, and testimonies we could share if we were faithfully spending time with God.
Adversity that comes because of having wrong priorities may be the consequence of trying to do more than God intended for us to do. “It is vain for you to rise before light, rise ye after you have sitten, you that eat the bread of sorrow. When he shall give sleep to his beloved,” (Psalm 127:2). If we have more projects than we can manage to do in six days, we have undertaken more work than God intended. “Six days shalt thou labour, and shalt do all thy works.” (Exodus 20:9).
Adversity reveals if our work will last.
How we weather the storms of life shows what we have built our lives on. Jesus gave this example: “Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock. And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof.” (Matthew 7:24–27).
Adversity tests our friendships.
The strain of adversity impacts relationships. Hard times reveal if people want to get or to give. Fair-weather friends won’t endure the test of trials and difficulties, but true friends will remain to offer support, comfort, and encouragement in the midst of challenges. Proverbs 17:17 states, “He that is a friend loveth at all times: and a brother is proved in distress.”
True, lasting friendship is described in the Biblical account of David and Jonathan. “The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (I Samuel 18:1). When adversity shook David’s world, Jonathan could have rejected David for many reasons. Instead, he remained a faithful friend to David until the end of his life. Jonathan befriended, encouraged, warned, and protected David, accepting him as the one who would be the king of Israel in his place. When Jonathan died, David was deeply grieved. “I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan: exceeding beautiful, and amiable to me above the love of women. As the mother loveth her only son, so did I love thee.” (II Samuel 1:26).
Adversity invites us to experience the power of God.
One of the ultimate purposes of adversity is to cause us to desire more of Christ’s power in our lives. Troubles reveal that on our own we can’t live in a way that honors God. We need to rely on God and receive His grace.
Paul willingly suffered the loss of all things so that he might gain more of Christ and experience the power of Christ’s resurrection. He said: “Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ: And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus, which is of God, justice in faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death,” (Philippians 3:8–10).
God works within the Christian in a mighty way, making him dead to sin and alive in Christ and enabling him to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than according to fleshly desires. (See Romans 6–8.) For the church of Ephesus, Paul prayed “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and of revelation, in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what the riches is of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us, who believe according to the operation of the might of his power, Which he wrought in Christ, raising him up from the dead, and setting him on his right hand in the heavenly places. Above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And he hath subjected all things under his feet, and hath made him head over all the church, Which is his body, and the fulness of him who is filled all in all.” (Ephesians 1:17–23).
Adversity prepares us to comfort others.
One of the most valuable results of adversity is that through it we receive God’s comfort, which we are then able to share with others who face similar troubles. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. Who comforteth us in all our tribulation; that we also may be able to comfort them who are in all distress, by the exhortation wherewith we also are exhorted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us: so also by Christ doth our comfort abound.” (II Corinthians 1:3–5).
Suffering brings pain, but it is not an end in itself. “In all things we suffer tribulation, but are not distressed; we are straitened, but are not destitute; We suffer persecution, but are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we perish not: Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.. . . . So then death worketh in us, but life in you. . . . . For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. ” (II Corinthians 4:8-10, 12, 16).