We’ve all experienced hardships, and the Bible is full of stories of people struggling through trials. When we read those stories, we have the luxury of knowing how it ends and seeing how God came through. But with our own lives, we don’t have that. We can’t see into the future to know how it will all work out. And that often leads to questions.
Why is this happening? Is God really here? Why did He let me go through this?
I think questions are natural, especially when it comes to adversity. In the moment, it’s hard to see how God could possibly use this for good. It’s hard to understand how it could possibly all work out. But I think God can use adversity to do three things: refine, remind, and realign.
Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. – Isaiah 48:10 KJV
The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts. – Proverbs 17:3 KJV
God can use adversity to help us grow. Sometimes adversity will point out sin in our lives and bring our attention to an area we need to work on. Just as heating silver can get rid of impurities, so we sometimes need to be put through the fire to become stronger Christians.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 KJV
When we go through trials, sometimes the first thing we do is run to God. And finally, we’re right where we’re supposed to be. Adversity can remind us that we can’t make it on our own. Even in the Garden of Eden, God walked with Adam and Eve. He still wants to walk with us. But we get distracted or cocky or complacent, and we need to be reminded who is truly in control.
Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a reminder that God is stronger than us, that He can be glorified by our struggles. Our weaknesses highlight God’s strength. (For more on this, check out my post God-marks). When life is easy, we sometimes forget God, and adversity reminds us how much we need Him.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
– 2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV
When adversity catches our attention, it can bring us back to where we need to be with God. When we’re humbled and willing to repent, we can get back on the path God has for us.
When Naomi lost her family, she ran back to Bethlehem, putting her on the path for her daughter-in-law Ruth to meet and marry Boaz. We see the fruit of Naomi’s decision, how God used Noami’s pain for good. In fact, the last few verses of Ruth reveal that she became part of David’s lineage. And as an ancestor of David, she was also an ancestor of Jesus. How amazing is that? Not only did Naomi’s decision to go home result in Ruth choosing to serve God, but it also resulted in Ruth becoming part of the lineage of our Lord and Savior.
God’s amazing at doing things like that. And often, we get so caught up in our pain that we don’t realize God has a purpose, that He’s working behind the scenes.
I think now during the current pandemic, this is especially important to remember. We may not understand what God’s doing, but I’m already seeing an effect in our lives. Our social calendars are empty, which means we no longer have the excuse that we’re too busy for God. Our focus is changing as we try to protect ourselves and our families, but so many of us feel powerless against a virus we don’t understand. Do you know who does understand it? God. Now, we realize we need Him.
Maybe this pandemic is meant to urge us to turn back to Him, to stop being complacent in our faith. So let’s take some time this weekend to examine ourselves. What’s an area you’ve become complacent in? Your prayer life? (Mine’s never been great.) Studying God’s Word? (I make it a chore rather than a blessing.) Let’s be honest with ourselves and dig deep. Let’s ask God to show us how we need to improve. And let’s share Him with others. We all need Him, pandemic or not.
(This post is an updated version of a post originally published on justjenniferpurcell.com.)