June 9, 2013

The value of adversity

Yesterday’s devotional reading extends for this day, commenting on the verses that speak of God shining light in dark places, even as stars shine in the night sky.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright. (Psalm 112:4)

These “stars” are for us, even if at first they are not welcome. Darkness, usually associated in the Bible with spiritual blindness, can also mean confusion in the life of a Christian. This darkness is often accompanied by suffering. Sometimes it is my own, but sometimes the light in that darkness is a challenge to be more aware of the suffering of others and work with God’s plan for them.

God can use poverty, illness, unemployment, war and the like to draw people to Himself, yet I don’t know that. Most often, suffering is the product of human selfishness and sin. Because God intends to one day wipe these things from the earth, then He could be calling me to be an agent in that purpose also.

However, the small light of figuring this out doesn’t do much toward bringing comfort in the great darkness of human misery. I know myself that when I am in trouble, knowing the cause of it is not nearly as helpful as having the power I need to get through it, to endure until the thing passes, if it does pass.

This brings another question about painful circumstances. It is not “why me?” but “How can I deal with this?” This is where the Word of God, both the pages and the Person, offer victory. My only power is looking at Him. What did Jesus do with suffering? The Bible offers this startling statement,

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)

If Jesus, the dear Son of God experienced trials and troubles to teach Him what it means to obey God as a human being (He already knew how to do that as the divine Son) then I also need to look at that darkness and regard it and the stars in it as part of God’s design to shape my soul.

As my artist training says, an essential of good design is that there must be shadow as well as light, dull as well as bright. The stars do not appear to be shining unless the sky is very dark. The struggles I have make His light seem brighter, even more necessary than when all is well.

Besides that, how can fortitude, compassion, patience and endurance be needed, never mind seen, in a “perfect” life? I need trouble to train me for this high calling of following Christ, even to carve on me His gracious profile. I need resistance to test and use my strength, confusion to make me reach for clarity, darkness to make me look up to those stars.

Hebrews 11 contains the names of those in faith’s hall of fame. None of them enjoyed happy and unclouded days. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death by the sword, went about in sheepskins and goatskins, and lived lives of destitution, persecution and mistreatment. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. And I think my life is difficult!

The Bible is clear about suffering’s value, as is the history of Christ’ followers. Adversity has been in every age faith’s grim inheritance. I do not walk alone, but I cannot expect my path to be totally sheltered, nor always quiet, and protected. It is from suffering lips that this cry ascends…
Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. (Revelation 19:6)

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