Adversity confronts us at every turn in life—trials, injustice, temptations, and disappointments—from above, below and all around. In the midst of God’s abundant blessings come the heartaches of adversities that expose, reveal and prove a man’s faith: the loss of property, health, or dignity—the slander, deceit, or evil actions of an enemy—the betrayal, cowardice or abandonment of a friend—and worst of all, the disappointment, disgust, and shame of our own failures. If we are not prepared, all these can bring us to the point of utter despair.
It turns out that sin is indeed much worse than we first thought it was, whether it is our own or someone else’s. A fallen world is at best a bittersweet place even for a redeemed sinner. Only in the sin-free zone of heaven will there be “no more sorrow,” and “no more tears.” Since adversity is a given in this life, the only question left is, how will we respond to it when we encounter it? What shall we make of it? Shall it ring us out like a rag and leave us dry and empty, or shall it be the means of our refining so that a purer faith remains? Will the adversarial sand rub us raw or will the abrasion polish and make us shine? Will the root of bitterness spring up, destroying us and defiling many, or will we “greatly rejoice” over the fact that God is working to conform us to the image of His Son? Job poses the question this way: “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2:10); the answer to this question will comprise the last line of the story of our lives.
In one sense, adversity introduces a man to himself—it is here alone that he gets a genuine glimpse of who he really is—here alone his faith and character are tested, proven and exposed. All men are sailors when the sea is calm, but at some point the wind-shift comes, the storm waves rise, and we find out what he is made of. The Bible calls on us to act in heroic proportions at the very point where we want run and take cover—loving our enemies, not returning evil for evil, blessing those who curse us, turning the other cheek, humbling ourselves before the mighty hand of God by genuine confession and repentance—these valiant responses are what turn adversity into our ally.