A Hopeful Outlook in Times of Adversity
“The hits just keep coming!”
“I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
“Will life ever get easier?”
“How much more can I take?
We often hear statements like these from those who struggle. Possibly, you have uttered similar comments. I know I have.
A hopeful outlook grows from an internal conviction based on a deep abiding trust that God cares for us.
Trials can obscure that reality. After all, when the rent’s due and the balance in your checking account is insufficient, fear can easily overshadow faith.
Not one of us desires adversity, but none of us can avoid it. Our culture encourages us to believe that we should be entitled to a stress-free life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go through life without struggle?
Or would it?
Problems are part of living. Each of us will experience difficulties. We have not been promised a “struggle-free” life. Job understands this.
“Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).
James, the brother of Jesus, encourages his friends to “…count it all joy, my brothers and sisters when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).
He doesn’t say “if” you meet trials, but “when.” There may be seasons when life is less troubling. But eventually, each of us discovers: There’s no detour around distress. We cannot — and will not — escape difficulties.
Since we cannot avoid trials, how is it possible to be joyful in suffering?
Remember: A problem-free life does not produce endurance.
For the last year or more, I’ve neglected to be in the gym. My mind keeps telling me I’m young, but my body screams: Who are you kidding?
So, I’ve recently started working out again. I’m discovering muscles I didn’t know I had. My weakness is evident. My lack of stamina is painfully discouraging. In moments when I feel I can’t endure anymore, my trainer says: “You’ve got this. You can do it. I know it’s painful, but trust me, it gets better.”
My trainer understands that strength and endurance require me to endure pain.
As tempting as it is to want life to be problem-free, we must remember:
Strength, endurance, and character require the furnace of adversity.
Paul reminds us: “…but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” (Romans 5:3-5).
Remember, we are not the only one suffering.
Recently, this reality came to my attention. A dear friend of mine who lives in Belarus told me of his arrest. He was jailed because of the “ichthys” (the Christian fish symbol) on his car.
When I complain because someone ridicules me for my faith in Christ, I need to remember that others suffer far more than me.
Remember the cause — the source — of your joy.
Your trial is not the source of your joy. Christ is.
Your affliction is testing (proving, revealing, and examining) your faith to produce steadfastness (the capacity to endure — to “bear up”) in difficult circumstances.
My friend’s suffering — as unfair, unrighteous, and harsh as it was — allowed him to see it as an opportunity to share his faith with the guards and other prisoners.
He found reason to be joyful — not because of the persecution — but because Christ was with him in the struggle!
What’s your affliction? Who is your source of hope? These are challenging times for all of us. I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases the apostle Paul’s words. May they strengthen each of us in maintaining a HOPEFUL outlook in times of adversity:
“… now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly … in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.”
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 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), 2 Co 6:2–10.