There are many benefits of adversity and trials. Often when we begin to experience pressure or problems — especially in our marriage — our natural reaction is “How can I get out of this?” We look for an easy way out and completely miss the spiritual lessons and benefits God wants us to learn. Our first response to adversity should not be to try and remove it, but to ask the Lord to show us His purpose in allowing it. Adversity can do one of two things: If we respond to it correctly, it can be one of the greatest motivations for spiritual growth; if we respond to it with humanistic reasoning and try to get out from under it, it can be one of the deadliest means of discouragement.
There are many benefits that God wants us to learn through suffering, but we will only experience them as we go through suffering and as we respond to it correctly.
1. Suffering is God’s way of getting our attention
Although I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was just a child, my teenage years were years of rebellion. During this time, the people I respected the most and looked up to were successful businessmen. Because I had believed Satan’s lies, I made one serious mistake after another. Shortly after leaving school I started my own business. I had all kinds of plans and goals for my life but none of them included the Lord. I was a Christian but I was living for nobody but myself.
Then on March 7th, 1979, I was driving along a little twisty road in county Down, Northern Ireland; and the next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital operating theater I later learned that I had been involved in a head-on collision with a truck. When they found me, my heart had already stopped beating, and it took them almost an hour to cut me out of the car. I had a fractured skull, broken leg and ribs. A week later I had a blood clot in my lung, and the doctors told my parents that they didn’t think I was going to survive one particular night.
As I lay in that hospital bed for almost a month, God brought a verse to my mind: Matthew 25:21 “…Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I realized that I had come within an inch of eternity twice within a period of a week. If I had died, I would have gone to be with the Lord because I had accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior; but I also knew with equal certainty that those were words that Jesus Christ could never have said to me — because I had done absolutely nothing for Him.
As a result of that accident, I lost my business; and at the time, I thought it was the worst possible thing that could ever have happened to me. But now, as I look back on it, I say, “Thank God for it!” – because God used that car accident to get my attention. He used that car accident to cause me to take my eyes of the temporal things of this world and to focus them upon eternal, spiritual realities. This was a major turning point in my Christian life.
Many of us are too busy with our own plans and goals that we have little or no time for God’s. But when trials come, we are suddenly faced with problems and pressures too big for us to handle. God uses suffering as a motivation to take our eyes off temporal things so that we can clearly see eternal realities.
2. Suffering is a signal to re-evaluate our priorities
Having the wrong priorities will have devastating consequences, not only upon our lives, but also upon the lives of those we love the most. The rebellion of an eldest son of a pastor that I know, caused him to re-evaluate his priorities and spend more time with his younger children.
If we are experiencing adversity, it may be that the Lord is directing us to re-evaluate our priorities.
3. Suffering is God’s way of demonstrating the sufficiency of Christ
A KGB agent put a gun to the head of a Romanian pastor and told him to renounce Christ or he would be shot. The pastor told him that he would never deny his Savior and that death only meant that he would be ushered into the presence of Christ. The KGB agent pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. The agent had used an empty gun because he wanted to see the reality of this man’s faith. When he saw that the pastor’s faith was genuine, he asked how he too could become a Christian.
If we follow our own human reasoning and try to get out from under the pressure of adversity and trials, the world will never understand that Jesus Christ is sufficient for any situation. When Christians divorce and churches split because of our selfishness and pride, we damage God’s name and reputation.
Recognizing the spiritual benefits of adversity can help us to see God’s purposes more clearly.
Morris Hull, Home Life Ministries