Adversity comes to every one of us. The word’s Latin roots speak to the way in which things can turn against us; the winds, instead of moving us along, turn toward and against us and our progress seems stalled or even reversed.
But has it? Or does adversity have a hidden, benign, or even good purpose?
Consider the following teach from St. Paul, which arose from his own adversity. He is in prison, yet writes this:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. … Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death (Phil 1:12-14, 19-20).
One can hardly imagine a set of circumstances more adverse for a missionary on the move than to be confined to a prison cell, unable to preach freely. Nevertheless, with the Holy Spirit to teach him, St. Paul can say that what seems adverse has actually served to advance the Gospel. His willingness to suffer for the truth of the faith both gives him credibility and bestows boldness upon others.
By God’s grace, the most adverse and paradoxical of situations can bear fruit. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. Find a place where the Church is being persecuted and you will find a place where she is growing. At the cross, Satan thought he could kill Christ and be done with Him, but instead, he released Christ’s full power. This is a lesson that seems to continually escape Satan and the world: God can make a way out of no way! When Satan does his worst, God releases the best.
What in our life has at the time seemed adverse but has actually turned out to be a blessing? It is important to reflect on this often because adversity takes an initial emotional toll. Discouragement, anger, fear, or depression can result if we do not quickly recall the paradox of the cross and God’s ability to write straight with the crooked lines of this word and to advance through even the strongest of headwinds. Adversity can help to clarify and strengthen. Persecution can purify us. Those who scoff at and challenge our beliefs can help us to clarify the truth even more. The lamp of truth is most precious and shines most gloriously in the deepest darkness.
While irksome, what seems adverse can still advance the cause of the Gospel. We need not desire adversity, but when it comes we should trust that God has permitted it, for a season and for a reason. If the greatest paradox of all, the cross, could release glory and open a way out of no way, so can our sufferings and adversities if we unite them to that cross.
God can make a way out of no way.