Archives for posts with tag: adversity

Garth Brooks is the  best selling solo albums artist in the United States, ahead of Elvis Presley, and is second only to the Beatles in total album sales overall. He is also one of the world’s best selling artists of all time, having sold more than 170 million records.

In one of Brooks’ songs, The Dance, he reflects on a failed romantic relationship. One moment “all the world was right” and then it was over. Dancing underneath the stars he remembers feeling that “Holding you I held everything.” He felt like a king but then the king would fall.

In spite of this negative experience he does not bemoan the fact of failure. Instead he suggests that although it was painful, he was glad he “didn’t know the way it all would end, the way it all would go” because if he had missed the pain he would have also missed the dance.

I have heard it said that there is no gain without some pain. Most often this comment is related to physical fitness. The premise is that the harder you work your muscles the greater the reward will be. The principle also points to a spiritual lesson. In the 2nd Century Rabbi Ben Hei Hei said “According to the pain is the gain.” The suggestion is that spiritual growth (gain) is accomplished by enduring the “pain” of doing God’s will rather than following one’s own desires.

The message is simple but not easily achieved. In Psychology Today, Romeo Vitelli says that there are three primary factors to what he calls psychological resilience- the ability to survive and grow from difficult circumstances. The first of these is self-regulation (control), or the ability to control impulses, manage difficult emotions, and being able to carry on despite setbacks.

Vitelli goes on to say that it is very helpful in dealing with traumatic life events or emotional distress if a person also has supportive relationships of family and friends.

The third component to overcoming traumatic experiences, Vitelli calls “meaning-making.” By this he is referring to the ability to understand and to explain what someone is experiencing.

I agree with Dr. Vitelli that all three of these components are essential for healthy response and survival of difficult and traumatic experiences. But I would add that he has missed an important element, especially in what he calls “mean-making”- faith in God.

While humans are incredible creatures endowed with remarkable abilities, we are all fallible beings. It has been said that into every life some rain must fall but how we respond to circumstances determines whether we gain or lose from that experience. Heredity, environment and many other factors impact every person. Our ability to cope is impacted by a multitude of things but there is one promise that is equally accessible.

Jesus said, “trust in me and you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” (John 16:33, The Message).

Jamie Jenkins

Why is my life filled with so much pain and struggle? What have I done wrong to deserve this? If I just had enough faith, this would not have happened! These and other comments reflect a misunderstanding of faith and life.

There are people who believe that faith in God will prevent tragedy and adversity. They espouse the understanding that God watches over God’s people and will shield them from all harm. They have scripture on their side and they quote verses like 2 Samuel 22:3 “My God is my rock—I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield and my salvation’s strength, my place of safety and my shelter.” Or “God is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).

There are many more similar expressions of confidence that God looks out for God’s own- and I believe them too. But we have to consider the whole of the Bible and not just select verses.

The Bible contains many strong assertions that God will protect and prevent people of faith from suffering disaster. There are many examples where that is dramatically demonstrated and the faith of God’s followers is affirmed. Stories in the Bible and history contain details of people who trusted God and were spared. The Hebrew Children is an excellent example. King Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace but they were rescued without even the hair on their head being burned.

Trust God and everything will be alright! But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood the possibility that they would not be spared. With that awareness they said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us… But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

The story of Job is an interesting one. In spite of the fact that he had lost many of the things that were important, he refused to stop trusting God. He said, “Even if God killed me, I’d keep on hoping.” What about the Apostle Paul. It has been said that he is second only to Jesus as the most important person in the origins of Christianity and he certainly did not have an easy life.

Ok, so faith does not always prevent adversity but God will deliver those who put their trust in Him. Right? Yes but perhaps not exactly as we would wish.

Chapter 11 of The Book of Hebrews chronicles the exploits of many “heroes of faith.” Their mighty and miraculous deeds are listed and the writer suggests there are too many such people and stories to mention them all. But the record shows that there were others who were tortured, imprisoned, stoned, and persecuted in ways too horrible to mention. “Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised” (Heb. 11:39-40 MSG).

“When disaster strikes, or calamity becomes the norm, there is no human logic that can explain all of the questions, ‘Why?’  There are things that, quite frankly, seem to make no sense at all.  Much of our human suffering appears arbitrary and senseless…One day every person faces eternity through death; better to believe in God through His son Jesus, and at least have the assurance of eternal life.  The trials of this life are temporary, even though they may seem to drag on forever.  Faith becomes the reality and evidence of what eternity will one day make vivid and real.”**

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “ For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NRSV).

It is important to maintain faith in a loving and powerful God Almighty. To believe that all things are possible if you believe. At the same time one must realize that faith does not guarantee a victorious outcome in this earthly life. The words to a song by Mercy Me captures what I am trying to say.

I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don’t my hope is You alone.

They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain. Good thing. A little faith is all I have right now. But God, when You choose To leave mountains unmovable give me the strength to be able to sing it is well with my soul.”

Regardless of circumstances the important thing is to come to the end of this earthly journey and be able to say, “I have finished my course. I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith.” Then you can be assured that you will receive God’s approval and the prize will be worth the journey (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Jamie Jenkins
*”Even If” by MercyMe- writers: Bart Millard, Ben Glover, Crystal Lewis, David Garcia, Tim Timmons

**Why Should I Believe In A God Who Doesn’t Seem To Help? by Craig Blumel

 

 

“I have been through a lot in my life,” he said. Then the young man talked about the health issues he had experienced in his soon to be twenty-four years. He had surgery to remove a brain tumor and then he was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer.

The survival rate for children who had this type of cancer was 40-70%. The prognosis for people over 18 was not nearly as good- less than 15%. Over the past 30 years there were less than 500 cases of adults with this form of cancer in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The cancer began in his lungs and then spread to the bone in his left arm. Chemotherapy and radiation reduced the size of the tumor. Then surgery removed the rotator cuff and the deltoid, the muscle forming the rounded contour of the human shoulder. He said the upper four inches of his left arm were “metal bone.” Two and a half weeks ago he was declared cancer free. “In reality I am a dead man walking,” he remarked.

As I listened I was struck with this young man’s attitude. There was no hint of bitterness or anger. No whining. Just a deep sense of gratitude for the knowledge and compassionate care of the medical personnel that treated him.

stock photo of medical personnel - portrait of successful medical team - JPG

Harry Emerson Fosdick said, “It is not what life brings to us in its hand but what we bring to it in our spirit that makes the difference.” This twenty-something man exhibited the kind of attitude that I wish was present in more people. He was an exceptional example that adversity does not have to make us bitter. If we respond as he has, difficulty can make us better.

Positive Attitude

Later in the same day that I overheard the aforementioned comments I visited two people in a rehab facility recovering from a fall. They were both decades older than the young fellow who had “been through a lot.” Because of their injuries their lives had taken a dramatic turn but they too had a hopeful and cheerful attitude and were doing what was needed to recover.

Cross that bridge

The Apostle Paul’s instructions were to “give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you.” I don’t believe he was suggesting that facing difficult times was what God wanted for you. Rather he was trying to help us realize that the only disability in life is a bad attitude and folks want to be around other folks who maintain a positive outlook.

Jesus said, “In the world you have trouble. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

Tom Stoppard reminds us that after all is said and done, “A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.”

Jamie Jenkins

Dinah Washington won a Grammy Award in 1959 for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance with a song entitled What a Difference a Day Makes.  It was originally written in Spanish by Maria Grever. The English lyrics were written by Stanley Adams in 1934. The most successful early recording, in 1934, was by the Dorsey Brothers, although it was first recorded in English by Cleveland crooner Jimmie Ague.(http://www.songswithearlierhistories.com/what-a-difference-a-day-makes/)

What a Difference a Day Makes

In the song things changed dramatically in a twenty-four hour period. Lonely nights and dreary days are transformed into sunshine and flowers. A rainbow appears where once there were stormy skies. According to the song, all of this changes “Since that moment of bliss that thrilling kiss.” Romance!

Aileen Quinn in Annie (1982)

The idea of drastic and instant positive change is also sounded in the song Tomorrow from the Broadway musical production of Annie. The title character lives in a miserable orphanage run by the terrible Miss Hannigan. But good fortune comes Annie’s way when she is given the opportunity to spend the Christmas holidays in the home of billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Annie repeatedly sings “Just thinkin’ about, tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow, till’ there’s none.” The song pronounces an optimistic view of life as she continues, “When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely, I just stick out my chin, and grin, and say, ‘Oh, the sun’ll come out tomorrow so you gotta’ hang on till’ tomorrow come what may.”

It is true that things can change dramatically overnight, or in the blink of an eye. Adversity can be overcome. Failure can become success. Defeat can be transformed into victory.

But all change that comes quickly is not positive. Health can deteriorate. Fortunes can be lost. Relationships are destroyed. Lives can be snuffed out. In an instant!

It is important to maintain a positive attitude. But things do not always work out like we hoped and planned. When positive thinking comes up short, when the difference a day makes is devastating, what do you do? Where do you turn?

Wisdom of the ages suggests that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present[a]help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). David, the King of ancient Israel gives good advice: The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock. I take refuge in him! He is my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety” (Psalm 18:2).

Jamie Jenkins

ADVENTURE 1

http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/228500/

Life is full of starts and stops. Ups and downs. Cycles. But I believe that people of faith ought to always see life as an adventure.

Long ago God called Abram to pick up and leave everything that was familiar and journey to a place that he did not know (Genesis 12). Although Abram did not know the destination, God assured him of guidance to the “land that I will show you.”

It was not necessary for Abram to know the end from the beginning. God knew the way.

Along the way Abram and his entourage encountered some difficult circumstances but the promise of God was that blessings would be the reward for faithful obedience. As they traveled on their divinely directed journey we are told that “the Canaanites were in the land” (Gen. 12:6) and they lived in “great cities walled up to the sky.” The Canaan Convention and Visitors Bureau was not very hospitable. But Abram continued to follow God’s direction.

It is irrational to believe that all of life will be smooth sailing- even for people who follow God’s leading. We mistakenly think that the absence of struggle and challenge is a good thing. In fact the opposite is true. Adversity is not our enemy; it is often our good friend strengthening us for the journey.

 

In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.”

It seems to me that the key is to be on the path that God has planned for us. If we are, we will be equal to every test and able to overcome any obstacle. As we journey with God we will learn, as Abram did, that God will bless us and make us a blessing to others.

Jamie Jenkins