Adversity: Burden or Bridge?

Adversity: Burden or Bridge?

She was an energetic young woman whose life was forever changed by an accident. Because her spinal cord was severed, she first struggled to survive. Forced to live her life as a quadriplegic, she nearly lost the will to live. Slowly, she achieved the impossible. She painted by holding a brush with her teeth. She produced record albums of joyful music. She married, & is now known as an encourager to countless thousands of people. Her name? Joni Erickson Tada.

If you’ve not had the opportunity to read about the life of Joni Erickson Tada, I would encourage you to do so. She has been a great encourager to many who have gone through adversities in their lives.

Can we take a moment to pray? Father, may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Let’s look at the book of James and see what he says about adversity.

James 1:1-4
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but in verse 2 James says, “WHENEVER you face trials of many kinds.” He does not say “if” you face trials, he says “whenever” you face trials. So facing trials is inevitable.

One thing that trips us up when we experience adversity is that we don’t expect it to happen. We are caught off guard. I will never forget when our first grandson was born. The week prior to the delivery, our son made all the necessary arrangements. I was to be at their house on Friday morning by 6:15 to watch our 2 ½ year old granddaughter until it was time to go to daycare. He and his wife were to leave the house at 6:30 to go to the hospital. Then after dropping my granddaughter off at daycare I was to go to work. I would pick her up from daycare at 4:30, so everything was all set. BUT!!! Wouldn’t you know when our son and his wife went to pick up their daughter at daycare the day before the baby was to be born, they were told their daughter had been sick since 3:30 in the afternoon and was now running a fever. They were told not to bring her to daycare the next day. Suddenly all my Son’s well thought out plans were beginning to fall apart. He couldn’t stay home with a sick child and be at the hospital as his wife delivered their son at the same time. He didn’t want to impose upon me to take a day off work. Everyone else that would have been able to care for her had children also and wouldn’t want to expose their child to the illness. He was really upset and frustrated when he called to tell us of his dilemma. Fortunately I work for a company with lots of young people with young families and they totally understood the situation and I was able to take the day off. Problem solved. But the fact remained that our son had tried his best to cover every possible scenario in advance and still something unexpected happened.

Isn’t that the way our lives are sometimes. We have this mental plan of all the things we want to achieve in life and many times we even put them in order of priority. First we plan to continue our education by going to college. Then we may plan on waiting till we are well established in our first job and then we’ll get married. Perhaps two years later we will plan to have our first child. Then two years later we will buy our first house. By then we will be ready for child # 2. Then we need to start thinking about college for them. And on and on and on it goes. But no matter how detailed our plans may be, at some point along the way there will be some type of adversity that will cause our plans to be rearranged. It could be a health issue we aren’t expecting, or perhaps the loss of our job unexpectedly, or perhaps a broken relationship…Suddenly we find ourselves having to make a choice. Will we allow the adversity to become a burden and weigh us down? Or will we ask God, “Lord, what can I learn from this experience? Give me your strength to endure. Help me to pray for your will.”

Some believers crumble under the pressure of difficult times. They become so bitter and resentful towards God that they walk away from His calling on their lives. Others face similar challenges but have a totally different reaction. Instead of weakening them, trials make them stronger because they learn to depend more fully on the power of the Holy Spirit. Adversity can be either an overwhelming burden or a bridge to a deeper relationship with God. The choice is yours.

Perhaps the adversity in your life has come in the form of an illness. You might be asking yourself, “Why do I have this illness?” Bernie Siegle, MD, shocks his patients when he asks them, “Why did you need this illness?” He claims that our bodies break down to give us a message, and many times it is a message that we have been ignoring. According to Dr. Siegel, while nobody wants to be ill, many patients say their illness was the best thing that ever happened to them. Why you ask? Because they learned to appreciate life and to express their feelings to their loved ones. Even illness can be a blessing.

Many times adversity prepares us to comfort others more effectively. From God’s viewpoint, suffering prepares us to minister to others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

So when you are going through some adversity or problem in your life and you are relying and trusting in God to see you through that situation, you may someday be able to share your experience with someone else going through a similar circumstance. You can help them to also trust in God to see them through. Does that make it any easier to go through a problem? That is all dependent on you. I heard Charles Stanley say this statement one day, “God never said it would be easy, He just said it would be worth it.”

Another thing that tends to trip us up when we are faced with adversity is that we may not be spiritually prepared to face the adversity. We need to become committed Christians. We need to be reading our Bible and praying daily. We need to put our trust and faith in Jesus Christ. We need to stand firm in our beliefs.

Let’s take a few minutes to see what Daniel did in the face of adversity.

Daniel 1:1-21
Daniel’s Training in Babylon
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

The Babylonians were trying to change the thinking of the Jews by giving them a Babylonian education. We read in verse 7 that Daniel and his friends were given new names. Their new names were meant to help them to adjust to this new culture. The name Daniel means “God is my Judge”. Daniel’s name was changed to Belteshazzar meaning “Bel, protect his life”. Bel was the chief Babylonian god.

Hananiah means, “The Lord shows grace”. His new name was Shadrach which means “under the command of Aku”. Aku was the moon god.

Mishael’s name meant “who is like God”. His name was changed to Meshack which means, “who is like Aku”. And Azariah’s name meant “the Lord’s help and his new name Abednego meant, “servant of Nabu”. Nabu was the god of learning and writing. This was how the king attempted to change their religious loyalty from being loyal to God to being loyal to the Babylonian gods.

Daniel resolved not to eat the food offered to them since much of the king’s food and drink included items that were forbidden by Jewish law. An example was the eating of pork .

Although Daniel and his friends were in a culture that did not honor God, they still chose to obey God’s laws. Verse 8 says Daniel “resolved” not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. It doesn’t say Daniel decided not to defile himself. The scriptures says Daniel Resolved to not defile himself. Resolve is a strong word. It means to be devoted to a principle and to be committed to a course of action.

So when Daniel “Resolved” to not defile himself, he was being true to a determination to do what was right and not give in to the pressures around him.

So often we are assaulted by the pressures of this world to compromise our standards and live more like the world around us. Merely wanting to or preferring follow God’s will and way is not enough to stand against the pressures and temptations that surround us. Like Daniel we must Resolve to obey God. Resolve in your heart that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

The second thing Daniel and his friends did was stay positive. Listen to this excerpt from Joyce Meyer’s book, “Power Thoughts”. An organization once offered a bounty of five thousand dollars apiece for wolves that were captured alive. Enticed by the idea of such money, Sam and Jed eagerly set out through the forests and into the mountains in search of the animals that could secure their fortune.

They fell asleep under the stars one night, exhausted after days of enthusiastic hunting. Sam awoke in the middle of the night and saw about fifty wolves surrounding him and Jed –hungry wolves, baring their teeth, with their eyes glistening at the thought of easy human prey.

Realizing what was going on, Sam nudged his friend and said eagerly, “Jed, wake up! We’re rich!”

A positive attitude enables you to make the best of every situation, and that gives you power over your circumstances instead of allowing your circumstances to have power over you. This was certainly true for Sam. While most people would be terrified when surrounded by a wolf pack, Sam saw the opportunity he’d been waiting for.

Make a commitment today to be a positive person. The more positive you are, the more powerful you will be.

When you face adversity, are you going to allow it to be a burden and weigh you down spiritually or will you allow it to become a bridge to help you rise above the difficulty and develop a deeper more intimate relationship with God?

You might be saying right now, “I think maybe I need to turn to God for help in order to face the adversity that is in my life right now, so I guess I’d better gear up for this.” Maybe you are thinking that before turning to God for help you will need to first start reading the Bible everyday and praying everyday and attending worship more regularly, and clean up some of those unclean thoughts or deeds that are in your life. Now, although those are all good things that will help you to get closer to God, right now in this very moment he will accept you just the way you are. Think of it in this way.

When a child is born he is totally helpless. He must depend on his parents to feed him, change his diapers, bathe him, even burp him, because he is not yet able to do these things for himself. And the child’s parents love and care for the child not because of anything he has done or not done. They love the child simply because the child belongs to them.

That is the way it is with God. He doesn’t love us because we have or have not done certain things. God in his mercy loves us because we are his children. He wants to love us, care for us, protect us and guide us. Once we have put our hope and trust in Him, he will begin to help us grow and mature in our relationship with Him. But right now, He is simply asking us to come into His open arms. He is asking us to give Him all our concerns and cares. He can turn those burdens into blessings. He is waiting for you to come to Him and begin a more intimate relationship with Him. He wants us to trust Him totally, to rely on Him for our every need. He promises that if we will come to Him, he will bless us with a joy, and a peace, and a hope that knows no bounds.

So let’s review:

  1. Expect Adversities because they are going to come.
  2. Be spiritually prepared and resolve to be devoted and committed to follow God’s way
  3. Stay Positive
  4. Come to God as you are and remember that God accepts me just as I am right now but also He loves me enough to help me become the child of God He created me to be.
  5. And lastly, allow your adversity to go from being a burden to being a bridge to bring you closer to God.

Let us pray. Father I come to you today. You know the burdens I have been trying to carry. You know how helpless I am feeling. Father, forgive me for not coming to you sooner. Lord I am asking you lift me up, give me the strength I need to make it through this adversity in my life. Father, I thank you for your unconditional love for me. Amen.

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