Synonyms for Adversity: Misfortune, bad luck, trouble, difficulty, hardship, distress, disaster, misadventure, suffering, affliction, sorrow, misery, heartbreak, heart ache, wretchedness, woe, pain, trauma, torment, torture.
None of these bring a smile to our faces.
So who or what is behind our adversity? We will review three possible causes today.
CAUSE 1 - God
In John 9:2, we read of the blind man that Jesus with his disciples. The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” We often find ourselves asking this ‘why’ question. Why did my son run away? Why did my father get cancer? Why did I lose my job? The questions are endless. We turn on ourselves and begin an often fruitless journey to find the reason for the adversity we face. We think, surely this is God’s way of paying me back. We may question the goodness and faithfulness of God. However, Jesus responds to the disciples’ question saying, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “Your thinking is too narrow.”
Is it possible that adversity can originate with God??? Jesus is clear. Sin was not the direct cause of this mans blindness; God was!! How astounding.
In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul describes his struggle with adversity.
“And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me”
Would Satan plan to keep Paul from exalting himself? Surely not! It most certainly seems to be God’s plan, and He used His resources to carry it out.
CAUSE 2 - Sin
Oftentimes, adversity is indeed the result of sin.
James 1: 14-15 says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin and when sin is accomplished it brings forth death.”
Sin always brings forth death. Relationships die, love dies, marriages die, ambitions die, hope dies, peace and joy is destroyed, health is destroyed, and lives are cut short.
The classic biblical case would be the story of Adam and Eve. Their lives were free of adversity before they disobeyed. Disobedience brought conflict, fear, sorrow, doubt, insecurities. All these were the result of sin.
The Roots of Evil
If we read the first few chapters of creation, it is clear that Sickness and Death was not part of God’s original plan for man. The ministry of Christ bears witness to the truth that sickness was not God’s original plan for man. Everywhere Jesus went, he healed the sick. Sickness had no place in God’s world in the beginning and it will have no place in His world in the end.
Death, disease, famine, earthquakes, war—these are part of our reality. Why? Did God abandon us? Is He no longer a good God? No. Our reality has been fashioned by Adam’s choice to sin. And sin always results in adversity.
God’s goodness and power are not to be measured in the balance of the tragedy and adversity we experience day in and day out. If His goodness is to be questioned, let it be done in light of His original purpose as well as His ultimate plan.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people and God himself shall be among them and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes and there shall no longer be any death, there shall no longer be any mourning or crying or pain, the first things have passed away.”
It is God who will wipe away every tear. It is God who will do away with death, crying, pain and sorrow. Why will He do these things? He will do so because He is a good and faithful God. How can he do such things? He can because He is the all powerful Sovereign of the universe. Nothing is too hard for him.
CAUSE 3 - The Adversary himself - Satan
Satan’s involvement in adversity extends far beyond his activity in the Garden of Eden. One example from the Bible is the story of job.
Job 1:1: There was a man in the land of UZ, whose name was job and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. And the Lord said to Satan, “have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
Here comes a difficult point for those who believe that adversity must be caused by sin of some sort. In this story, God seems to be vouching for Job’s character. As we read through chapter 1 of Job, we understand clearly that Job’s adversity was from Satan and that God permitted Satan to touch Job.
Peter writes in 1 Peter 5: 8-9: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith…”
This passage is often used to talk about Satan’s involvement in our temptations, but the real context is suffering. Satan wants us to suffer, for suffering often destroys our faith in God. However, we are exhorted to be on the alert so that we will not lose sight of who God is to us, that we may throw ourselves upon our Father for our deliverance in His time and according to His purpose.
Determining the cause of our adversity:
It is often difficult to determine the source of our adversity. Adversity related to personal sin may be easy to identify. However, often things are not very clearly identified. We don’t want to rebuke the devil for something God has orchestrated. Neither do we want to just grin and bear it if there is something we can do to put an end to our suffering.
The bible does not give us any formula to help identify our source of adversity, and there may be an important reason it is not doing so, because far more important than the source of adversity is the response to adversity. Why? Because adversity, regardless of the source, is God’s most effective tool for deepening your faith and commitment to Him. The areas in which you are experiencing the most adversity are the areas in which God is at work. If God is not doing anything in your life, you will not have any problems. God uses adversity regardless of the source; however, your response to adversity determines whether or not God is able to use it to accomplish His purposes. Adversity can destroy your faith if you don’t respond correctly. It can put you into a spiritual tailspin from which you may not recover. Everything depends upon your response.
If we spend too much time trying to answer the WHY question, we will miss what God wants to teach us. If it is Gods sovereign will to reveal it to us, it will be done as we respond correctly.
Our son Elijah was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008. He was two and a half years old at the time. The church was praying while we went through treatments. Towards the end of his first chemotherapy cycle a month later, he woke up one morning and said he dreamt of Jesus, and He gave him a pink medicine and told him he was healed. The next day onwards, his medical condition improved dramatically and his bone marrow test showed he was in remission. We were ecstatic and testified over and over again over the next couple of years of how Elijah had been healed and also about this vision he had on his hospital bed. We were devastated when in 2010, at age 5 years, he was diagnosed with a relapse of leukemia. We were shattered beyond words. The challenge this time was, WHY did this happen when God had already miraculously healed him. We were asked to go through a bone marrow transplant. We prayed and expected a miracle one more time before the transplant…but nothing happened. We had to go through the agony of agreeing to go ahead with a mismatched transplant because after many months of searching for a matching donor, this was the best we got. In the following months that followed, we saw Elijah’s condition deteriorating. I was in a whirlpool of bitterness against God. When I saw my son Elijah after transplant, when I saw he was no longer the same child he was prior to the transplant, my heart was so heavy…I don’t have words to explain the hopelessness we felt. But over a period of time, we came to hold onto God because we believed He was in control. He is God Almighty and there is a purpose to everything. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who said even if God would not save them from the fiery furnace, they would still not bow down to the pagan God, we too would cling onto our Father. We still don’t know the purpose of Elijah’s illness in our lives, but we are able to see things from a bigger perspective. Although it would have been wonderful to have received a miraculous healing one more time around, God showed that it is a greater miracle to suffer long term and still be able to hold on to Him.
I would like to close with these words…oftentimes the explanations we are so desperately seeking will become clear as we respond correctly to adversity.
Surely the disciples stood at Calvary wondering why such a heinous crime was allowed to happen. Humanly speaking, it made no sense at all, but in a few days the pieces fit together. Many times we stand like the disciples at Calvary. We watch our hopes and dreams shatter before our eyes. We see our loved ones suffer. We see family members die. And like the disciples, we wonder why.
The source of our adversity is not to be our primary concern. Think about it. What was the source of the adversity Christ faced? Sin, Satan, or God? All three were involved, and yet Christ’s response allowed our heavenly Father to take the greatest tragedy in the history of the world, even murder of the perfect Son of God, and used it to accomplish His greatest triumph – the salvation of the world. How much more can we trust that God is accomplishing His purposes through the adversity we face everyday? We must remember that Christ’s death, burial and resurrection serve as the context for all our suffering. That is our pattern. That is God’s goal for us through all the adversities of life. Take courage, friends. Hold onto the Father!