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February 7, 2019

The Gift of Adversity

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (MSG)

Have you ever considered adversity as a gift?  It sounds not only counter-intuitive but even cruel to suggest; but, in the mystery of God’s providence, we find that problems are often opportunities in disguise!  In fact, the real problem with problems is not the problem; it’s how we look at the problem that is the problem!  Without adversity, you would never reach your destiny. Like a butterfly struggling to emerge from its chrysalis, the struggle is what enables it to soar one day!  If you were to intervene and relieve it of its struggle, it would never fly. God uses problems in a similar way in our lives. Problems are filled with possibilities.  Let me suggest three advantages for adversity for you to consider:

  • Adversity is your greatest opportunity for growth. 

When experiencing his own personal adversity, an infirmity of some kind that he doesn’t fully describe, the apostle Paul prayed three times that God would remove it.  Nothing happened!  That’s strange as, more often than not when Paul prayed for someone to be healed or for a miracle to happen, God usually answered it right away!  God did many miracles through Paul, from healing the sick to even raising the dead!  Why wouldn’t God answer his own personal prayer for relief from this adversity?  After asking three times, God did speak to Paul.  He said,

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.”  2 Cor. 12:9 (MSG)

Paul changed his perspective on the problem.  Instead of focusing on all the disadvantages he was experiencing because of his adversity, he now saw the advantages.  In the next verse, he wrote:

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (Vs. 10)

Paul discovered that his adversity was his greatest opportunity for growth.  Out of his weakness and infirmity, he could experience God’s strength!  God used the adversity to help Paul grow in his faith, to grow in his character.  He does the same for you and me.  That means our greatest barrier is really our greatest bridge for God to take us where He wants us to be.  We grow stronger through our struggles. 

  • Adversity is your greatest opportunity to give grace.

In verse 7 of Paul’s personal struggle with adversity, he wrote,

“… so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.” 

The people I identify with the most and respect the most are those who have experienced great adversity in life.  It’s their failures that help me relate to them so much.  People may impress you with their successes, but they influence you with their honest admission of failure.  Our failures help us to give grace to others.  If we never failed, we would be full of pride.  You can’t be full of pride and full of grace.  I’m able to extend grace when I’ve received grace.  Jesus said that the one who is forgiven of much loves much.  Don’t waste your sorrows and struggles.  God will use them in your life as an opportunity to give grace to others.

  • Adversity is your greatest opportunity to experience God.

This is the greatest advantage of adversity!  God created you to love you! He wants you to know Him, to experience Him.  I love the way the Message paraphrases Paul’s story in verse 7b,

“Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees.”  

Paul was saying that the adversity he was experiencing didn’t come from God.  God allowed it, but it didn’t come from Him.  It was a Satanic attack God permitted; but, with it, God offered grace and strength that would take Paul to a whole new level!  The experience was painful.  It was as if Paul was saying, “The devil knocked me down, but he didn’t knock me out!  He knocked me to my knees where I would experience God and His power in a whole new way!”   

Could it be that is what God is doing in your life today?  I don’t know what you’re going through, but I do know that God loves you and longs for you to experience Him. 

Don’t run from Him.  Run to Him! 

He’s big enough to take your anger, your questions and your pain.  Only when we give Him the problem are we able to get a new perspective. Sometimes, He will take the problem away when we pray!  That’s a miracle!  I love that, and I have seen Him do it many times.  Other times, He will take you through the problem.  He doesn’t change the circumstances, but He does something even more miraculous.  He changes you in the midst of the problem.  He begins to grow your character to match His calling in your life.  You begin to grow in your faith relying on His strength like never before.  You find yourself extending grace to others more than you’ve ever done before.  And, in the midst of the struggle, you experience God more than you ever have before.  Take heart, child of God.  He wants to use your struggles to make you soar!