Monday, July 13, 2020

Triumphing Over Adversity: The Toughness Test

Time is a great teacher. Over my decades of life, I’ve concluded that I wouldn’t mind pain if it didn’t hurt so much. Similarly, I wouldn’t have such a dislike for adversity if it wasn’t so difficult and demanding.


Perhaps you can relate. Or you might respond with a simple, “Duh!” No one but a masochist asks for pain or actively seeks out adversity. However, they are inescapable, everyday realities. Facts of life. The only people who don’t confront pain and adversity are those who have already departed from this life. So the question is, how do we cope with them?


I’ve never met consultant and life coach Tim Kight, but I’m often impressed with his concise, pithy social media observations about what it takes to succeed in life and work. On the topic at hand, he recently wrote, “When adversity strikes (and it will), what will be tested is your toughness, not your talent. Some people are crushed by adversity, some survive it, but there are those who get better because of it.”


In a lot a relative economy of words, he’s said a lot. First of all, it’s not a question of whether we will confront adversity; it’s when. And it’s true that when hard times come, lots of very talented people crumble, lacking the determination or courage to persevere. Others do survive, but it’s only by the proverbial “skin of their teeth.” Some, however, exhibit the toughness, the inner resolve to look adversity straight in the eyes and refuse to blink. And in the process, become better, not bitter.

Adversity is something we seem to have in abundance these days. It may be hard to find certain products at the supermarket, but adversity hasn’t suffered from the supply chain. Businesses and schools have closed, the sports and entertainment worlds were turned on its end, and churches have had to institute unusual measures to stay connected with the faithful. 


It's hard to find any facet of life that hasn’t been adversely affected by COVID-19, social unrest, the constant fear-mongering of the media, or political turmoil. Not to mention always unpredictable and sometimes severe weather. 


Add to this the personal and unique challenges we’ve all faced. There’s a lot to deal with. So what, as Kight observed, separates those who become crushed, or those who manage to merely survive, from those who somehow thrive when adversity comes to call?


There are many possible factors, I suppose. But for those who follow Jesus Christ, it’s more than grit and an inner refusal to yield to external circumstances. For us, there’s no better resource than what we can find in a deep, abiding faith in our loving, sovereign God. 


So far, 2020 has been as tumultuous as any year in recent memory. I’ve wondered on numerous occasions, “What in the world is going on?” and, “When will all this end?” Like everyone else, I have no idea – but knowing the God who does is a great source of hope and reassurance.


Writing to his protégé, Timothy, about the adversities he had experienced and continued to endure, the apostle Paul said, That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). 


Just as Paul’s long journey with the Lord had forged an unwavering trust in Him, we too can face the perils and uncertainties of contemporary life with hope and assurance.


In another of his New Testament letters, the apostle wrote this declaration: 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).


Nothing can separate us from God and His love! The question is, do we really believe that? Our answer will go a long way in shaping our response to adversity, whether it’s what we’re facing at present or what is yet to come. Will we be crushed, will we survive, or will we thrive?

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