To me, one of the most remarkable things about the physical body is how it reacts to adversity. If there is something physically lacking, or if there is some obstacle in the way, our bodies can be trained to overcome that obstacle. If I feel myself getting winded just by going up and down some stairs, I can essentially train my body, with proper nutrition and exercise, to increase my conditioning. I can get faster, stronger, increase my energy, increase my endurance, and increase my overall health simply by putting my body through a little adversity. If I want bigger muscles I must increase the pressure I put on my muscles through weight training. I have to increase the resistance on my body if I want to gain more strength. Interestingly, just like our physical bodies, our spiritual selves need more pressure if we are to gain spiritual strength. There has to be more “weight” put on, more resistance! That’s what James had in mind when he said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2, 3). James knew that the virtue of spiritual endurance would only come by adversity. But one cannot appreciate this statement unless the right perspective is used. James, along with the great men of faith of old, saw the world from an eternal perspective, not the short-term, physical perspective that most people who worry use today. True, godly character is formed out of the fires of adversity. This is exactly why God’s main priority for us is not a problem-free life. God loves us too much to give us an easy, comfortable life. He loves us too much to not provide opportunities for growth. He prods us in the right direction because He doesn’t want us getting too comfortable in this temporary life. See, when everything is going our way and life is good, we like to think that we did it all and God is nowhere to be found in our thinking. But it’s during the times of difficulty, when things are not going our way, that we seek God. It’s only then when we realize how badly, how desperately, we need our God. It’s during times of weakness when we realize that we are completely dependent on God. So we must realize that the problems, the adversities, the pressures, the stresses we have in this life are not the issue. The issue is our attitude, our response, to the problems! Our response speaks volumes of the kind of character we truly have. Are we quick to blame God? Or do we have the confidence that our Father will get us through these problems? You see, it’s so easy to say, “Why me?! Why did this have to happen to me?!” But it takes real strength, real character, to thank God for all the blessings He gives even in the midst of crisis. It take character to keep Christian composure. It takes character to be able to respond to adversity just like Paul did whenever he asked God to remove his thorn (2Corinthians 12:7-10). Though we are never told of the nature of Paul’s thorn, we are told enough to know that it was a problem for Paul, so much so that he asks three times to have it removed. But God was more interested in Paul’s spiritual growth than his physical comfort and gives Paul a “no” answer. Paul’s response is so beautiful considering how much he already suffered being an apostle of Christ (see 2Corinthians 11:23-28). Paul responds to God’s answer the way we should all respond: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Corinthians 12:9, 10). The question is, have we reached that level of Christianity where we could respond the same way? Are we spiritually mature like Paul to say that we can be content with any situation we’re put in, not matter how bad (Philippians 4:11, 12)? Or do we complain and strive for the attention and pity from others? This is not what Christ taught. What we should learn from Paul is that first of all, the battle of life is not external, but internal. The second thing we learn is that whenever we do have a problem, we cannot blame God. If you find yourself doing this then go back and read Job. We must realize that God wants us happy and healthy, but Satan wants us sad and sick. The third thing we learn from Paul is that we must value our problems, our “thorns,” and see them for what they really are: opportunities to develop godly character. So when we have a problem in our lives, we must look to the cross, keep our eternal perspective, help others along the way, ask God for help, pray for deliverance from temptation, and accept the challenge. The battle can be won.
“Life is a grindstone. Whether is grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us.” – L. Thomas Holdcroft