“Life is hard.  Then, you die.”

This is the happy, hopeful message I read on a bumper sticker several years ago.  I have never forgotten it, in large part because I was struck at how truthful the message was, and yet how it totally missed “the rest of the story.”

Yes, adversity dogs us.  Setbacks, betrayals, losses, and disappointments seem to beset us, along with sickness, injuries, and ultimately, death.  No wonder why some come to the point of questioning the goodness of God, when adversity seems to attack so regularly and with seemingly disastrous consequences.

As stated in a previous post, adversity is the lot of humans.  As a race we chose to rebel against our God and go our own way without Him.  Our existence is permanently bent by this choice, and we live everyday with the disastrous consequences. Yet even in our rebellion, we are not left alone.  Our God in His great love for us chooses to walk through our adversities with us.  If we will consciously make room for His work in our adversities, He uses them to wean us from our rebellious self-reliance so we might rely upon Him more and more.  This growing reliance upon our God is moving us closer to the life for which we were created.  A life of dependence upon Him, of communion with Him moment by moment.  A life in constant touch with the source of all life.

Through our adversities, which will come to us not because of our God’s anger at us but because of our habit of independence from Him, we learn to walk apart from self-reliance.  Through adversity we begin to allow our God to live His life in us.  Since difficulty will come – Jesus said in this world we will have difficulty – our God redeems our difficulties and uses them as a means to reduce our independence from Him.  This is the source of real endurance and strength.  This is the adventure of our God living His life in and through us. 

James, the earthly brother of Jesus, said it this way: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!  Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance.  But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed…” James 1:2-4 (JB Phillips).