Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Handling Adversity - Introduction

Common views about adversity

Mankind has an insatiable interest in finding the answers to the basic, but profound, questions of life:

· Who am I?
· Why am I here?
· Where am I going?
· Why are these things happening?

Our Creator has given us certain senses for our benefit. For example, when you reach to touch a hot stove, you can feel in your skin the heat from the element. You have the ability to sense in advance that something could harm you. But if you’ve never experienced the pain from having a burn, then how do you know to stop when you feel the heat? Kids do this all the time as they learn through experience. After the burn, what are you thinking? I’ll never do that again!

Pain is one of the many experiences given to us for us to learn and use for our benefit. We can use it to protect ourselves before a series of events harms us. But there are circumstances where we ignore what our senses are telling us, the pain we experience as a result, in order to reach beyond the pain to something desirable. This is often summarized in the saying, “No pain, no gain.” Athletes are told this and say this to themselves time and again. Why? Because as they train, their muscles and organs scream under the intense load, but they keep going, doing the same thing over and over. But that doesn’t answer why since the pain should be what stops them. They keep going because they know that the process will result in an increase in strength and endurance. It is only by continual training and enduring pain that they will perform at a level that provides the opportunity to win the event, to be the best.

1Co 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
1Co 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
1Co 9:26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
1Co 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

What these observations demonstrate is that we have senses to use at our disposal either to take action and avoid harm or ignore to achieve greater objectives. Both of these cases are trivial when set against the larger backdrop of our lives. In these examples we have the ability to choose the circumstances and actions based on our direct senses. We choose whether to train to compete in an athletic event or to just simply improve your physical fitness. But there are pains we experience that are not the result of one of our senses, pain that cuts to our core and touches the heart. This can be the pain of disappointment, loss, or failure. Most of the time the pain we experience is the result of circumstances outside of our control. We are simply in the path of what takes place.

It is when we experience pain as a result of something outside of our control that we begin asking the question reflected earlier: “Why?” It comes across as a question of “Why me?” or “Why my friend?” or replace the subject with any number of choices. It is at this point that we often begin trying to identify the one that is controlling these events. We seek answers for why with our parents, teachers, elected leaders, and ultimately God himself. We see this reflected in several accounts in the Bible. Consider each of these:

· Job asking his questions: Job 9 and 37
· Jesus and disciples about the blind man, “Who sinned?”: John 9:1-5
· Asaph: Psalms 73

Mankind asks a lot of tough questions but there are not always answers to these questions. Every now and then we may be able to find the direct answer to the stream of “Why?” questions that we ask, but most times we will not. This study is about that stream of questions and finding Bible answers.


1. Adversity

2. Suffering


1. What are some examples of adversity either that you’ve experienced first hand or have watched in the lives of others?

2. What is the range of reaction that you have experienced or seen as a result of adversity?

3. Study the three contexts noted above and provide a brief summary:
a. Job 9 and 37

b. John 9:1-5

c. Psalms 73

4. We’ll consider these questions at the beginning of this study and then again at the end to compare and see what we’ve learned. What are some of your answers to questions such as:
· If there is a God, why did he allow those people to die in hurricane Katrina?

· Why did God allow my friend to develop a brain tumor and die when he was only 14? He was a good person with a bright future.

· If I didn’t have these problems with my health I could serve the Lord much better.

· Why do people keep mocking me and giving me a hard time about being a Christian?