How is your business doing right now? Or your career? Perhaps you are struggling, uncertain about the future. Even if your situation appears to be going very well now, chances are you have faced serious challenges at some point during the past few years. Adversity has become everyone’s companion in one way or another.
Adversity is not something we seek. In fact, we typically view adversity as the consequence of something we have done wrong. If we are working hard, playing by the rules, operating with wisdom, then prosperity – not adversity – should be our reward. At least we like to believe that.
The truth is, however, adversity can be an excellent tutor. I will never forget meeting a businessman years ago who as a young person had encountered racial prejudice in many forms. Gerald could have become embittered and angry, but chose instead to respond to this adversity in a positive manner. In fact, he adopted a motto that he repeated often: “Thank you for adversity.”
Facing adversity helped him to develop strong character. It also reminded him of his own weakness, his inability to control circumstances that surrounded him. Ultimately this awareness drove him to a deep, life-changing relationship with God. Whether dealing with harsh realities or handling personal and professional successes, Gerald discovered a simple truth: “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
Many of us in the business and professional world are accustomed to relying on a variety of resources: banks; key staff members; well-conceived goals; strategic plans; experience and expertise; personal finances. We pride ourselves at “pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” Yet at times we must concede even our best efforts – and all of the resources we can muster – are not enough to overcome the obstacles we confront. At times like these, I have often remembered Jesus’ admonition: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
So how can we embrace adversity as a friend, rather than an adversary? The Bible offers these suggestions:
Adversity builds faith and fosters endurance. Just as a person uses increasingly heavy weights to build physical strength, difficulties in life – where we work and where we live – can serve to strengthen us spiritually. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Adversity establishes reliable hope. We can hope for increased business or an improved economy, but find ourselves limited in what we can do to bring about desired changes. When our hope ultimately rests on the grace, love and sovereignty of God – even to influence what transpires in our workplaces – we can experience peace and joy. “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Adversity reminds us of who is truly in control. In the visible, pragmatic work world, we can easily ignore God’s involvement and interest in what transpires. The Bible assures us He is sovereign – in control – and will carry out His divine plans. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.