The Evolution of Adversity

William Doane, a renowned bishop in the early Episcopal Church, once said, “Life has no smooth road for any of us.”  

At some point in each of our lives, adversity comes to visit – sometimes invited, sometimes unexpected, and sometimes imposed upon us.

When we flirt with addiction, violate sound values and principles, or take a path that our conscious tells us is wrong and harmful, it’s like sending out an engraved invitation to adversity – asking it to come reside in our life for awhile.  Through our individual actions and behaviors, we have opened the door and invited it in all on our own.

Other times, adversity comes knocking on our door unexpectedly.  It can come disguised as an out-of-the-blue health issue, an accidental death, or a job loss outside of our control.  We can be engaged and immersed in all the right kinds of attitudes, activities, and actions, but nothing can stop it from rapping on the door of our life – demanding entrance at a time we least expect it.

Worse yet, adversity can come to visit us via friends, family members, and acquaintances – imposing on us like an unwanted guest in our home. We have no responsibility for it surfacing, but it comes through the door of our life hand-in-hand with someone we love.  The affair of a spouse, a child constantly in trouble, a friend’s deep depression, or a co-worker’s problems outside of work can cause hurt to enter our own lives – bringing with it a pain just as intense and powerful as other types of adversity we experience.

How is adversity currently visiting you?  Has it been invited, come upon you unexpectedly, or has it been imposed on you by others?

Regardless of how it has entered your life, here is the good news:  Adversity has a way of evolving – a way of transforming into something good, something worthwhile, and something valuable in the long run.  The evolution of adversity is one of God’s great mysteries – why He allows it in the first place, how He uses it with intention, and how He ultimately transforms it into something wonderful and beautiful in the end.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28 NLT

Adversity Invited or Brought on by Ourselves

Without a doubt, most of the adversity we experience in our lives is directly related to our own actions and behaviors.  We say the wrong things, think wrong thoughts, and act out in a way that invites misery and pain.

When adversity is self-imposed and of our own doing, we often think God has no intention of transforming it.  We falsely believe He has no empathy for us – absolutely no compassion for anything we have brought upon ourselves.  We believe instead that God would treat us differently if the adversity was imposed on us by others or thrust upon us unexpectedly – outside of our control.  Then and only then would He show us any mercy.  If we are responsible for the adversity, it’s easy to think God would say, “Hey, you made this bed, now sleep in it!”

But God isn’t like that.

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” – Psalm 103:8-10, 14 NIV

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him.” – Isaiah 57:18 NIV

In fact, it’s far easier for self-inflicted adversity to evolve – allowing God to forgive us, restore us, and transform us by simply surrendering our life and our ways to Him.

There comes a point when we begin to realize that we alone are incapable of doing what is right and good.  Without God’s involvement in our life, we are bound to experience self-inflicted adversity over and over again.  Surrender of our way to God’s way is the start of the change process.  God uses our mistakes and the adversity they create to show us how much we need His presence and guidance in all we do, think, or speak.

How has God used the adversity in your life – the trouble you have brought upon yourself to teach you, to change you, and to transform you into a new person?  

Adversity Imposed on Us by Others

I don’t believe there is a greater pain to endure then pain that comes from the very people we love and admire.  The adversity that’s brought into our life by loved ones has an energy all its own.  The betrayal of a spouse, the disrespect of a disobedient child, the hurtful gossip from a dear friend can damage our emotions, self-image, and our ability to nurture and seek out future close relationships.  If the people we love can bring us such adversity and pain, why reach out emotionally and relationally to anyone anymore?

Here are a few of my favorite Bible verses that address when others hurt us:

“Pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44 NLT

“For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12 NLT

“Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing.” – Jesus speaking on the cross in Luke 23:34 NLT

Prayer is the source of transformation – the method God uses to begin evolving the adversity imposed on us by others.  Prayer not only changes the person instigating the adversity, but it brings about personal change – how we view the adversity and our role within it. 

First and foremost, prayer can begin the needed transformation in our loved one – to help them see the error of their ways.  We cannot change people, but God can!  Too often we try in our own power to correct a spouse who is hurtful, scold and ridicule a child who has turned rebellious, or to admonish a friend who is causing us harm, but instead we need to relinquish this power to God who will always do what is right and just.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21 NIV

“When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” – Peter speaking of Christ’s response to His crucifixion in 1 Peter 2:23 NIV

Secondly, prayer begins the transformation process in ourselves as we face adversity imposed upon us by others.  Through prayer, we begin to understand how vulnerable we all are to evil.  We begin to connect the adversity to evil – not to the friend or loved one who is entranced and ensnared by it.  We begin to see how much we have been forgiven in our own life and we understand the need and obligation to forgive others.  We are given the wisdom to see just how destructive it is to hold on to the hurt and offense – for us and for the offender.

How are you using prayer as you face adversity imposed on you by someone else?  Do you trust God to transform your spouse, child or friend?  Has prayer changed how you view this type of adversity? 

Unexpected or Uninvited Adversity      

Life is so much easier when we have direct control over situations, circumstances and outcomes, but it can take on a whole new meaning when things begin to happen outside of our control – creating a type of adversity more frustrating and unbearable than any other kind we face.

When we leave the doctor’s office with horrible news, when a terrible accident happens unexpectedly, or a disaster strikes out-of-the-blue, we can feel a pain and vulnerability that’s indescribable.

God uses unexpected or uninvited adversity to evolve our relationship with Him – transforming our understanding of His sovereignty, His plans and His purposes for our life.  It’s a sad fact, but unexpected illness, unforeseen death, or tragic natural disasters have a way of exposing our human vulnerability and pushing us closer to a God who has control over ALL things. 

The closer we move toward God, the greater peace we experience no matter what we face.  This evolution of our relationship with Him has a lasting effect on our life – bringing us greater wisdom, deeper assurance, and sustained confidence as we deal with unexpected adversity in all its forms. 

What we cannot control, God can control and manipulate to our advantage.  What doctor’s can’t cure, God can heal.  The tragic accident that makes no sense hasn’t caught God off guard or unaware.  When something unexpected occurs that ruins all our plans, God has far better ones in store for us – plans and purposes He has established for us since the beginning of time.

The unexpected adversity moves us closer to God.  The closer we move toward God, the more we change and evolve – growing in wisdom and understanding of all we face in life.  The greater wisdom and understanding we possess of all that is happening around us, the greater peace and joy we experience 🙂

No matter what kind of adversity you face right now, rest assured that God is working within it – transforming you, changing others, and evolving His relationship with you in the process.  God is working out all things for good 🙂

I pray that you look at adversity a little differently tonight – realizing it never remains the same or stays constant, but evolves and changes into something wonderful in the end for you and others.  Thank you God for using what is meant for evil and harm and turning it into a blessing 🙂

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