I have many cousins. Their names are legion. We call them affliction, disaster, distress, suffering, trouble, hardship, misfortune, calamity and catastrophe.
We can bring you stress, pain and sometimes fear. You may perceive us to be a hostile enemy. To the contrary, you may consider us to be either a hard taskmaster or a great teacher.
There is an unwritten law, so inextricably mixed in the nature of man, that the unseen becomes more real and true than many things we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands. This well-known truth has been recognized by the great minds of all the ages and has been expressed by many people in many ways. Jesus expressed it this way: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” It is also true that he who seeks to make others happy will find happiness in the process. He who gives to others will receive blessings more costly than jewels. St. Francis wrote it so beautifully: “For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
Adverse winds blow on all the ships at sea. Adversity is a companion to all pilgrims. Some perceive adversity to be pernicious and evil. Others accept adversity as a hard teacher.
It has been suggested that prosperity is a great teacher, but adversity is an even greater teacher.
“God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering,” St. Augustine wrote.
The psalmist wrote, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivered us out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19) It is in one’s struggles and trials that our strength is increased. The more the diamond is cut, ground and polished, the more it sparkles. It is true in nature, the arts and also in grace.
If God sends the afflictions, we may be certain they are for our good. As we grow in the Christian life, God seeks to perfect our gifts and graces. Paul suggested that God often reveals to us the purpose of our trials. He wrote: “We glory in tribulations; knowing that tribulations worketh patience, and patience experience and experience, hope.” (Rev. 5:3, 4)
Someone said the best test of life and of a good golfer is not how many times he gets into the rough, but how well he gets out of it.
If God is the author of our troubles, he sends them with his love. He does not send us trouble to make us cry, but to help us see more clearly his perfect will; never to impoverish us, but to enrich us, never to excuse our weakness, but to make us wise; never to make us sad, but to make us know the true blessings of life and help us to find our way to that shining city on a hill.
Isaiah 30:20 states: “Though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction ... your ears shall hear a word ... saying, this is the way, walk in it.”
David said, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble ... thy right hand shall save me.” (Psalm 138:7)
Robert V. Ozment, an author and retired United Methodist minister, lives in Floyd County.