We all have our mountains and our valleys throughout our lives, and I believe those valleys can sometimes be meant for our good. They can help teach us to Praise our wonderful God in times of trial. When I am able to do that, I immediately see wonderful blessings from my gracious Heavenly Father. I was recently sharing with our Pastor that, “I think God is still trying to teach me to praise Him through my trials.” This morning during my devotional, I came across this priceless bit of advice in my Women’s Study Bible, and I thought, “If this is helpful for me, perhaps it will be helpful to others.”
ADVERSITY – A Mountain to Climb
Adversity is not God’s ultimate desire for His creation; yet, there is a clear message that God uses adversity. He is in control over the most adverse of circumstances. We are wrong to presume that God is necessarily in the business of removing our adverse circumstances or reversing the situation that led to adversity. Rather, the Bible points to the conclusion that instead of taking us out of adversity, God is much more interested in taking us through it, using the adversity to effect something good in our lives.
Isaiah 43:2 “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Oh, what comfort and peace I get from that verse.
Romans 5:3-5 “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” I often cringe when I ask God for patience, because experience has taught me that for me to grow in that area means I must needs go through the challenges that bring it about. But, look at what comes after the bout with learning patience. It is worth the trials.
James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” As I read this verse today, I feel a little disappointed in myself for not grabbing and holding onto it during a recent time in a valley that nearly broke my heart in two. I so wish to immediately think on these truths and comforts from God’s Word. During those times when I have had the presence of mind to turn immediately to Him and His Word, I have received unspeakable comfort and peace in my Spirit. Memorizing verses from God’s Word are invaluable for help during these times.
Naomi and Ruth provide a great example of triumph over adversity. Women in Bible times had few independent or autonomous rights. As a result, most women depended upon the patronage of father, family, or husband. To lack such a protecting relationship was to invite adversity in many guises. Naomi’s family left Judah and went to Moab in search of food. There Naomi not only subsequently suffered the loss of her husband, but later the loss of her two sons as well. Utterly unprotected in a foreign land, she determined to return to her native city, Bethlehem, for safety.
Naomi’s story is significant because of the faithfulness of her daughter-in-law, Ruth, who could have chosen the protection of her homeland, Moab, but rather gave up her own rights. Ruth did not choose the suffering of widowhood, but she did choose the vulnerability and possible suffering involved in following Naomi back to Judah, turning her back on the security and protection of her family in Moab (Ruth 1). Here God clearly emerges as the Protector of the unprotected who place their faith in Him. The womanly wisdom of Naomi foreshadows Jesus’ character as revealed in the New Testament where He seeks those in need of being defended. Naomi was able to direct Ruth to Boaz, her kinsman redeemer, who, as Ruth’s husband became both for her and Naomi. In this story of faith were to be sown the seeds that would ultimately result in the birth, not only of Israel’s greatest king, David, but also of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is one of the clearest examples of how God’s ultimate purpose is worked out through human adversity.
On a completely different plane, Esther first experienced adversity in being an orphan. Yet, God provided loving nurture for her through her cousin, Mordecai. Her utter trust in the sovereign God helped her to place all her human resources in God’s hands, and as a result, the Jews, God’s people, were ultimately preserved.
Adversity is something from which the human condition naturally recoils, but the higher message of the Bible exhorts believers to embrace every circumstance God sends or allows, even to go as far as to “count it all joy” in the hope that God’s ultimate purposes will be fulfilled. I have come to a place in my life where it has become easier for me to more quickly respond to adversity with the thought, “God is ultimately in control, and He is allowing this to happen, and if He is allowing this to happen, He will see me safely through it.”
God has graciously laid this passage on my heart for some time now, and I cling to it like a drowning man clinging to his life preserver: Romans 8:28-32 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
About 3 years ago, I started sincerely asking God to help me to know Him more. During those times in the valleys, He reminds me of that request. I am getting better at realizing that He is doing just what I asked for, and thanking Him for what He is allowing.