A hurricane wreaks havoc and devastation on a coastal town. Economic hardship pushes families out of their homes. Yet another school shooting leaves young people dead. Perhaps you’ve wondered, “God, why don’t You prevent these tragedies? Why all this suffering?”
The truth is that God could intervene. The Bible teaches that He is sovereign, no matter what happens. But many times, He chooses to allow people the freedom to destroy life, or He lets nature devastate an entire region. As believers, what should our response be when adversity, unexpected tragedy, or suffering comes?
Reaffirm your position in Christ. Remind yourself of who you are and what you have in Him. It helps to do this out loud. You can say something like this:
I know that I am a child of God. I am saved. I have become united with Christ. I am sealed with the Holy Spirit. My eternal destiny is determined, and nothing can change that. The Lord will never leave me nor forsake me. Nothing can touch me apart from what my heavenly Father allows. All things will work together for my good since I love God and have been called according to His purpose in Christ.
The truths listed in the paragraph above are essential to maintaining the right perspective on adversity. Self-esteem and confidence in God are usually the two things most affected by tragedy. In moments of despair, you need a strong dose of truth to relieve your troubled heart and set your feet on the immovable foundation of scriptural reality. Then you are ready to . . .
•Ask God to remove adversity from your life. This is where we usually begin, but it is best to ask after we have gained perspective. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, Paul pleaded for his struggle to be removed. Although God did not answer that request, He didn’t chastise the apostle for it. Neither will He be displeased by your request. Even your prayer for mercy is an expression of dependence and faith.
•Reaffirm the promise of God’s sustaining grace. The Lord may not choose to remove adversity from your life immediately. In that case, it’s important for you to rely on His grace—not your own abilities. People who try to endure suffering in their own strength collapse under the weight of it all. Admit from the start that you do not have the power to withstand the pressure. Cry out to God for mercy. He will hear you. His grace will be sufficient moment by moment to get you through.
•Thank God for this unique opportunity to grow spiritually. You must look for the Lord’s part in your adversity, or you’ll miss it. You are not simply to endure suffering; you are to grow and mature through it. The best way to develop this attitude is to thank Him every day for the spiritual growth in your life.
•Receive adversity as if it were from God. Most of the time, you don’t know for sure who’s behind your suffering, and believe it or not, the source of your adversity makes little difference. God has a purpose for each difficulty He allows.
When you respond to adversity as if it were from Satan, the tendency is to fight it. When trouble lingers, you may begin to doubt God. So, as long as the Lord accomplishes His purpose through adversity in your life, receive it as from Him. And remember, God’s grace is sufficient for you (2 Cor. 12:9).
•Read and meditate on passages of scripture that describe adversity faced by God’s servants. Read the story of Joseph, or look at the way God provided for Abraham when he was left with undesirable land. Imagine how foolish Noah felt while building the ark. The Bible contains illustration after illustration of God’s faithfulness in adverse circumstances.
Fill your mind with these truths. Ask God to open your eyes to the human side of these characters so you can identify with their pain and sorrow. Then, dwell on Christ’s promise to care for those who love Him (Matt. 6:25-34.) Just as He was faithful to men and women in the Bible, He will also demonstrate His faithfulness to you.
Suffering is unavoidable. It comes without warning and can shatter or strengthen us. The outcome hinges on our response, not the nature of our adversity. If your heart’s desire is to see God glorified through you, hard times will not leave you without hope.
—Adapted from “How to Handle Adversity,” by Charles F. Stanley