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The Adversities of Life


For more information on broader aspects of this issue, please go to Fullness of Life in Christ

How do you see and handle the adversities that come to you in your life? Most of us consider them a nuisance, something that shouldn't have happened to us. Common adversities include ill-health, financial loss, violence of both physical and verbal types, loss of loved ones, unemployment, disunity and various traumas such as accidents or just plain misfortune. We almost never see such things as positive, but always as something bad, calling it a set back, bad luck, misfortune, or if they the adversity is really difficult we would call it a disaster, calamity of catastrophe, as indeed they can be. So why are adversities such a common occurrence in life? Why do they happen and how should we view them? This is just a short introductory discussion on the issue.

There are some basic premises being implemented here. One is that because mankind is basically sinful, there is plenty of trouble and strife available in the world for God to use as afflictions to bring adversity. The second is that because God is sovereign and in control of the whole world, He is able to utilize whatever might be going on around us to allow the adversity he wants. Also, it is a Biblical principle that God uses bad or evil to bring about good. So ,just in case God might appear to be an ogre who only brings trouble, let it also be known that God also brings good to all men and protects and keeps them from a wide range of otherwise harmful events – and in His own time, delivers His own from trouble. However, let us establish from the Bible that God also initiates the negatives of adversity, woe and calamity, all for His own purposes, which normally can be shown to be of ultimate benefit to mankind.

First, Solomon tells us that prosperity and adversity come from God.

"In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him. Eccl. 7:14 (NKJV)

Second, Jeremiah tells us that both woe and well being proceed from God

"Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed? Lam. 3:38 (NKJV)

Third, Job, one of the greatest sufferers of all time tells his wife that God brings adversity.

"But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10 (NKJV)

Fourth, God Himself, through Isaiah tells us he created calamity.

"I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.' Isa. 45:7 (NKJV)

In this verse God says that He makes peace and creates evil. (KJV) Different versions of scripture use different words for evil. It comes from the Hebrew word "ra" meaning adversity and calamity.

In addition to those four, there are many other examples in scripture where God both plans and uses evil for His own glory and His own purposes – to bring ultimate good from evil – even though we might not fully understand.

Exodus 4:11.           God says that He makes the dumb, the deaf, the seeing and the blind.

Jeremiah 43:10       God said that the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar was His servant.

Isaiah 10:5             God called the evil Assyrians, "the rod of My anger".

Joel 1:4 and 2:25    God called the locusts etc "My great army which I sent among you".

Genesis 50:20        God MEANT evil for good.

Acts 2:22-23          Peter said that Jesus was delivered (unto the cross) by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

Acts 4:27-28          When believers were praying after Jesus death, they acknowledged that Herod and Pilate only did what God had decided to permit them to do beforehand.

John 19:11             Jesus said to Pilate that he could only have the power over Him that was given from above. If there were two powers, Jesus would surely have said – power from below. Jesus only saw one power – and that was His.

John 18:11            Jesus said to Peter in the garden when he was being arrested, that it was the Father's cup that He had to drink. Would not he have said Satan's cup if He was acknowledging two powers?

God indeed does cause and use what we might see as evil, difficulty and trauma for His own ultimate good.

As a believer in God, and therefore believing in what the Bible says about these things, and as an observer of the human condition of my own and the lives of others, I believe that adversity, if viewed correctly can have and indeed normally will ultimately have a positive effect. Of course it is rarely possible to see the good in adversity just after the difficulty happens. We are emotionally involved in our lives and will always be shocked or saddened or annoyed at this trauma that has just happened to us. Some time later we may well see that it was meant to be and had that difficult event not happened we would not have learnt what we did.

Take for example the receiving of a few speeding fines. Not nice! $125 each time really hurts the hip pocket. But after having these penalties applied, we might learn not to speed and our lives are better off. It might have even helped us to live and not die on our roads. At a minimum we will have more money to enjoy. It seems to me that we can learn from adversity, if we take responsibility for what happens to us. Not that we can ever get rid of all adversity, but I believe we can limit the damage by learning from the adversities that come our way. If we don't learn from them, we can really suffer long terms effects and never really know something of the peace and prosperity in life that can be possible. I believe that the God of this universe has a purpose in allowing adversities to come our way. There are literally dozens of scriptures in God's Word that say this in various ways.

So how does God use adversity to teach us better ways to live. There are many guidances like Psalm 1 which express God's expectations about how man should live and the consequences of not doing so. Basically it says that those who go God's way will prosper in life and those who do not shall not prosper. For those who do it His way, they prosper and those who don't suffer. However, for both believers and unbelievers that is not the end of the story. Here is the psalm.

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish."

So, given that basic position that God's people will do well and those who do not acknowledge God shall not (even their own human effort

shall ultimately fail them) let us first look at the reasons for the adversities that come to believers. Yes they do suffer them and there are Godly reasons for this. Right through the Bible God tells us to positively view adversity – to be joyful in it. The average person on reading this might think that perhaps God is some sort of a nut. Why should we be joyful in adversity?

For believers the reason is simple. God uses adversity to sharpen us up and refine us into the sort of person He wants us to be. Scripture tells hundreds of stories that demonstrate that principle. King David once said that had God not afflicted him he would not have learned right ways. The Bible also teaches those principles in many places. Believers who know and realize this is how God works, normally after asking God lots of "why's", eventually come to realize that many clouds of misfortune will probably have a silver lining. Of course any adversity caused by our own stupidity is exempt from this good. God does not reward us for doing stupid things. But genuine adversity allowed by God for our own benefit, will bring benefit if we take notice of the point being made and change our attitude and behaviour accordingly.

So the adversity suffered by believers, providing it is not caused by their own stupidity, will ultimately benefit them if they view it as God's teaching of them. Mankind is sinful and stubborn and like a child needs disciplining for his wrong ways and stubbornness, so do we need to correct our ways as adults when we still need to learn more of God's ways. God actually allows or causes such adversities as an act of His love for the believer, so that He can bring greater benefit to the believer out of the greater obedience that results in the believer's life.

What of the adversity that come to the unbeliever?

Before we can look at that there is one more thing about the believer that needs to be understood. It is simply that he believes in God and what Jesus has done on the cross and by way of His resurrection, in order to bring life to the believer by his trust and obedience in God. He belongs to God. He believes that God made all things. He believes that God can keep and guide him through life and that he will be saved from eternal death and live forever with Christ. He has crossed over the line from death to life.

As yet, the believer has not crossed this line. He has not yet had the benefit of knowing these things. So God's first task with the unbeliever is to get him to a point where he realizes he needs the power of God in his life. And to do this, one of God's ways is to bring adversity to the life of the unbeliever, in order that he begin to question his life and who is in control of it. What God intends is that the more He brings adversity to a life, the more God hopes and believes that the unbeliever might begin to ask eternal questions about what life is all about – and by his seeking of truth, and seeking of God, that God Himself meets the unbeliever and saves him into eternal life.

The sooner the unbeliever decides to go God's way, the less he suffers and begins to benefit. Bringing adversity to the unbeliever is God's way of showing His ultimate love for him, to draw him to Himself that He might reward him from His vast storehouse of good things, that comes from the unbeliever coming into obedience to the things of God.

The primary purpose of this writing is to let both believers and unbelievers know of the principles behind how God works in relation to the adversities of life.

If an unbeliever does not find out these things he may consider life to be just one long succession of things going wrong. It may well be – until the unbeliever takes solace in these words and begins to seek God and His ways. It is the most important life lesson anyone can learn.

Norman Grubb spoke of life's adversities in this way.

"The Bible makes it plain that God as purposively sends the unpleasant as the pleasant. No reader (who has read Old and New Testaments) can call that into question. God's will and its outworking in our lives in not permissive, but determined. When even Satan is only God's agent, and evil men only fulfilling His foreordained plan, then we can start off by praising God for adversity and counting it all joy...... Adversity is prosperity in disguise." Grubb pp 95

Grubb's writing on adversity is worth the read. See details below.

Nor does the unbeliever have to put vast effort into his new life as a believer. He will find that he has exchanged his old life of striving for the new life of letting the Lord provide His strength and wisdom to his new life in Christ. Many unbelievers think that if they become believers they will have to try hard and because they do not think they can do this (they can't in their old state) they avoid seriously considering God and what He offers.

So, God uses adversity both in the life of believers and unbelievers. With believers to enhance their life by bringing them into closer relationship with Himself and with unbelievers by bringing them into initial relationship with Himself so He can call them sons of God and provide for and guide them into their new life. It is certain to be difficult and sometimes painful, but the rewards are great for those who persevere. Ultimately it settles the eternal destiny of every human being.

Reader, whether you be unbeliever or believer, try to see your life and the adversity that sometimes come as a wake up call from God, summoning you into fullness of life with Christ, both here on earth and later in heaven.


Norman Grubb. Chapter 14 Adversity or Adventure? in God Unlimited Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania 19034 1962

Ken Walker

September 2002