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Misunderstanding adversity

So, Karen and I are in Panama. We're taking some time off and I'm going to try not to blog for a week. In the mean time, I'd like to start a discussion and get you readers to share your experiences and thoughts around a theme. The question I'd like to pose is, "How do we m…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

So, Karen and I are in Panama. We're taking some time off and I'm going to try not to blog for a week.

In the mean time, I'd like to start a discussion and get you readers to share your experiences and thoughts around a theme. The question I'd like to pose is, "How do we misunderstand adversity?"

For too long I've experienced adversity in life and misunderstood God's purpose in allowing it. As a younger man, when I was fired from jobs, I saw it as a great injustice. I looked at all the positive things that I'd brought to my roles and felt agrieved for having been let go. Although I tell other people to never be a victim or to think the thoughts of a victim, that was the language I used.

For years I could only understand the pain I'd experienced in terms of how it hurt me. I couldn't see the benefit of the pain – how it helped me grow. I couldn't understand the correlation between resistance, pressure, and friction and the process of moving to another stage in life. Just as muscles need resistance to grow, so does our character. Faith only grows in the presence of doubt.

I look at young people and I'm concerned that we parents have removed too much of the pain from their life. People need to feel opposition to understand the price of achievement. We do a great disservice when we remove the natural consequences of failure from those we want to help.

Adversity is not an enemy, it's a friend. The person who hurt you most is God's tool to teach you forgiveness and perseverance. The person who you never want to talk to again is a flawed human being just like you or me, convinced of the rightness of their intentions, struggling to make a difference.

So, I'm going to be gone for a week, but in the interim, I'd like to invite you to share your response to these questions: How has God used adversity in your life? Did you misunderstand it? What happened and how did your view of adversity change over time?

Comments (7)

  • Interesting.

    First, from what I learned, not every instance of pain or destruction in our lives has been allowed by God, like in Job. Yes, I’m sure there are multiple times where He trusts us and tells the enemy, “Go for it…I know my son/daughter and that they will stand.” To me, however, a lot of the pain we encounter is direct consequences or correlations to the choices we make each and every day. It’s kind of like Romans 8:28 ‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’

    In retrospect, we can see where the trials, tribulations and pain we have gone through was used by God to draw us closer to us. A little ‘in retrospection’ God did this and that, but at the moment of those things, they were the consequences and such of our choices. My relationship with my ex-girlfriend and then the break-up in late July 2009 led me to want more from my relationship with God…praying in a spiritual language happened (didn’t know it was that until training camp) and I got into Grad school. Then, all of a sudden ended up signed up for the Race and I can say that adversity, or break-up from my ex was the best thing to ever happen to me (now…definitely not in the moment). I think if we open our eyes wide enough, any and every situation we find ourselves will be used by God to take us from strength to strength and glory to glory.

    Even now with where I’m at and NOT in Ireland like I thought I would be has a purpose and reason to it. What that is, is beyond my wide eyes at the moment, but I’m getting closer. God’s still there and working on me and I love that fact more than any other.

    *Don’t know where all that came from. 😀

  • oh geez, seth. thanks.

    your timeliness is good.

    was just having this conversation with a resistant person that i love and have known for all of his/her life.

    “People need to feel opposition to understand the price of achievement. We do a great disservice when we remove the natural consequences of failure from those we want to help.”

    there is no positive spin on pain.

    it is.

    and God is not sleeping.

    and you need to want your solid future more than anyone else.

    self-rescue.

  • I think so often we misuse adversity as a time to self pity and focus on what we are lacking instead of seeking God more through those times. It’s a great reminder to look at what we can get out of it and how we can grow more into the character God wants us to be and understand His grace more as we look at forgiving others instead of wallowing in our hurt. So convicting!

  • My dear friend Seth. As you no doubt recall I was literally right there with you in that “firing” experience at a ministry where we both were renegades of a sort. I hated being terminated and it hurt.

    Since then I’ve seen even deeper sorrow with glory and have to say that while tenaciously clinging to faith I also know God isn’t offended by my questions.

    You cannot be a disciple of Jesus without suffering.

    Period.

  • “Faith only grows in the presence of doubt”. I happened to type your quote here before I filled in my name, & email: Why?! It just struck me as usual, when something is running around my brain & I can’t exactly put my finger on it…. When I read this quote it reminded me of so many life situations that I’ve experienced where I would think that God must be out to lunch because he seemed to have led me down a blocked ally again. However, sometimes years later it hits you that if it wasn’t for the adversity, I wouldn’t be in the better place that I am now in! I have experienced this in job loss situations, broken relationships, & especially close to my heart is the occasion that my husband & I tried to adopt a child from a 19yr old girl who we worked with for 2mos before her delivery. She swore that she wouldn’t change her mind, but as you might expect, she did. Even after we saw our beautiful little girl that we were to take home. A few days after being impending parents for 3 days we got a call that changed our joy into devastating sorrow.! However, 9 mos later we were blessed with my son(now 31) when he was only 6wks old, from another country. The circumstances aren’t the issue here… Next, 7yrs later, after trying to adopt outside the USA,and failing for the 3rd time, we were contacted about a tiny 4yr old who had a tragic start in her life, who was now physically able to be adopted. After much leagal work, my husband,7yr old son, & I flew to Ecuador to adopt our precious daughter, Andrea. Yes, she is the 28yr old fiesty Godloving missionary now on team “Living Faith”. Many moments in our life there has been adversity, & doubt about where God was, but this is just one situation in which things could have gone wrong but with much faith & prayers, God brought our adopted family together. Now, Andrea is “living her faith” out for her God who has brought her to this point of service in her life. Do I still have doubts in my life now? Sometimes, but they are usually short lived since I’ve learned to cast my cares on Jesus the author & finisher of my faith. Praise God for His faithfulnes,mercies, & grace! By the way, Andrea’s middle name was given by us, “Grace”. And she is, Gods Grace!

  • To demand that others should supply you with answers is like asking a strange woman to give birth to your baby. There are some things that can only be born through your own pain, and they are most precious.

    This is a quote I saw a while back that really speaks to the heart of the matter. All growth is birthed and there is no birth without pain. Look at Jesus. The birth of our salvation came from the death and pain of His crucifixion. There is great symbolism in that. Pain is a precursor to life. Adversity is the donkey we ride onto the path of pain that leads to freedom. But when pain is a consequence of bad decisions and we make them over and over again, it will get to the point that you become numb to the pain or learn to medicate it. It’s is a different path. It does not lead to freedom…it will lead to death.

    Thanks Seth. Hope you enjoy your time with your wonderful wife! Say hi to Karen for me!

  • Growing up I lived in the filthiest of filthy houses, Roaches, mouse poop, dog urine and feces, you name it. Even the floor was falling through.

    Not to mention the emotional and verbal abuse that was going on. my parents were always fighting. Leaving my brother and I to take care of each other in our rooms. Then when I got older I was sexually abused by an uncle. Shortly after that I attempted to run away from home! ALL by 5th grade mind you.

    The next few years only got worse till 8th grade, that’s when my life was changed. I moved out of my parents houses and in with another family member, I even switched schools. My grades went up and I God led me back into his forgiving arms. Even though I was in a much better place I still find myself asking why… why did it have to be like that!

    I look at my brothers and my life (He is an Associate Pastor at the church he attends and I am a missionary) and see and know that Gods hand was in my life through all of that and Hes the only reason I am where I am now.. and it propels me to go shout it to the nations that There is a God… He is alive and He loves us much more than we could ever imagine

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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