Rather than traveling on a smooth, high-speed interstate with nice, comfortable rest stops along the way, my journey with Jesus has been more like hitchhiking the local side roads of real life, complete with confusing or missing road signs, potholes, occasional detours, unexpected discoveries and surprises, hidden places of interest, love, beauty, enjoyment and of course, adversity… As I’ve traveled I’ve found that a key to living well is handling adversity.
Probably the number one most important thing I’ve learned about adversity is that it’s unavoidable. Inevitable. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble…” Paul cautioned, “When (not if) the day of evil comes.” Peter wrote that we shouldn’t be taken aback when adversity hits “as though something unusual were happening to you”, because its not. Adversity will be a part of your life no matter how much you may try to shelter or protect yourself from it. Adversity is never far from our door, whether it’s divorce, sickness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a demotion or dealing with something that has not turned out the way you hoped it would. We all suffer adversity. I don’t enjoy hard times but I’m not shocked or surprised by them. That’s because I don’t expect life to be fair. I expect adversity to be just as much a part of life as happiness. It’s programmed into it. To be human and live in this world is to experience both time and time again. Job, something of an expert on adversity said, “Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7,NIV)
But we’re not helpless. Cervantes famous hero Don Quixote proclaimed, “Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory”. In other words, those who know that something is coming are better equipped to face it than those who don’t know. I can’t know when, where or how adversity will come, but I know it will. I’m not paranoid. I don’t walk around with a dark cloud hanging over my head. It doesn’t prevent me from experiencing joy and satisfaction either. It’s just that I expect adversity to be part of my life. And because I expect it I’m better prepared to handle it. Being forewarned helps me overcome the fear and anger I experience with courage and confidence. Being aware that difficulties are inevitable helps build the basic, most important internal resource necessary to facing hard times and living well nevertheless: trusting God. When it comes down to it, trusting God and hanging in there when I’m under fire in large part depends on my expectations.
Since I expect adversity from time to time I also expect God’s help. This brings me hope amid adversity. Hope is like being fitted with heavy-duty shock absorbers for the road of life. I believe God’s promises so I expect he’ll only allow as much adversity as I can handle. I also expect God to use it as a training ground out of which to bring good. And though adversity may last a lifetime, I don’t expect it to last forever. One day the training will be over and at last, because I expect God to keep his promises, I will be a mature and complete human being like Jesus. And as I’ve hitchhiked the roads of life following Jesus, more often than not these expectations have made it possible for me to face whatever adversity has come my way with courage and patience.
Stay tuned for more traveling tips for kingdom hitchhikers…