Girlfriend’s Guide to Overcoming Adversity
I have three friends in the midst of some seriously tough situations. I pray for these women regularly, and a few days ago, I decided to do some research on the subject of successfully overcoming adversity –simply as a labor of love for them. I ended up compiling what I hoped was an encouraging, inspiring message. When it was done, I realized that there are lots more people facing adversity than my friends. So here it is - Sabrina’s lovingly created “Girlfriend’s Guide to Overcoming Adversity” (With a little help from Pastor Richard!)
KITCHEN TABLE WISDOM
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how hard things were. She didn't know how she was going to make it and felt like giving up. As soon she solved one problem, it seemed a new one took its place. She was tired of fighting and struggling. Her mother took her to the kitchen.
She filled three pots with water.
In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the last one, she placed ground coffee beans.
She let them boil without saying a word. After a little while, she turned off the burners.
She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled some coffee into in a cup.
Turning to her daughter, she said "Tell me what you see."
"Carrots, eggs, and coffee." she replied.
She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She noted that they were very soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the egg was hard-boiled. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma.
The daughter finally asked, "Mom, what’s your point?"
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity -boiling water- but each reacted differently.
Which are you? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you like a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"
- The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it became weak and nearly disintegrated.
- The egg had been delicate. A thin outer shell was the only protection for its liquid interior. The egg hardened on the inside after being subjected to boiling water.
- However, the coffee was unique. The coffee changed the water.
Like the carrot, did you start out strong only to become weak and nearly fall apart because of pain and adversity?
Like the egg, did you start out delicate, but toughened up and grew hardened after facing the heat of a trial? Did you once have a fluid, resilient spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, do you now have a hardened heart? Does your “shell” look the same, but the inside is totally different?
Or are you like the coffee bean? Coffee subjected to hot water becomes something wonderful. Only then does coffee fully release its fragrance and flavor. If adversity affects you like hot water affects coffee, then when things are at their worst, you are at your best. You change the very situations that cause you pain.
Ironically, each of my friends had a response similar to one of the food illustrations. One didn’t respond to it at all. The other sent me a sweet email message thanking me for being strong for her when she was weak. The last one also thanked me for the message, and then forwarded it to almost everyone in her address book!
So when the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest exactly how can you elevate to the level of a coffee bean? Pastor Richard Pfeil has wisdom on this subject that far exceeds my own. The rest of this message on overcoming adversity comes from him.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. -James 1:2-5
James says "when tests and challenges come at you from all sides...." Because the fact is that you are going to face times of trials. James was an intensely strong believer. His faith was not shaken by the reality of trials. Trials did not cause him to deny God at all. James knows it's not God's fault. Yet so often God is the first person we all blame when adversity comes.
It is common for us to blame God. But think of Jesus on the cross. If God was really to blame for adversity, then God had cause to be mad at himself! What we hear from Jesus on the cross is a cry of anguish, a feeling of being alone, but he still had faith because he said, "Into your hands I commit my spirit."
A father took his daughter to the doctor to get an injection - knowing the experience would be painful. The daughter knew her father loved her, yet he was the one who brought her to her tormentors. Nevertheless, with love in the father's heart, holding his daughter, she clung to him, receiving the painful shot. She cried, "Daddy, Daddy, no." But she clung to him nonetheless. This is a good posture for us to remember in adversity. We should always cling to the Father because he loves us and knows what's best for us.
One thing that trips us up when we experience hard times is that deep down, we don't expect them to happen. The first statement we make is, "I can't believe this is happening to me." We are so often caught off guard by financial down-turns and yet common sense tells us that in the history of our economy, there is a seven-year cycle of ups and downs. Throughout humanity, industries have come and gone, times change, and people need to prepare for this.
People are crushed by the loss of loved ones. It is okay to experience grief - which is an expression of love, but it is not okay to be destroyed. History tells us that everyone dies. Billions of people have lived on this earth and died, and it is something that we need to prepare for.
Some people are confused by illness and the process of aging and the frailty that accompanies it. Yet, we all age. None of us ever grows younger.
What we need is a realistic expectation of life. We need to understand and accept the Biblical view that the world is fallen and we will experience adversity. May God give us the grace to accept it and to prepare ourselves to see adversity simply as hurdles in life to jump over.
Another thing that trips people up about adversity is that we draw this parallel between life and God. We think that everything that happens in life is because of God. We ask, "Why, God, did you let this happen to me? God, where are you? Don't you care? Aren't you in control?"
Don’t misunderstand God's sovereignty as him being a puppet king. He is not that at all. He has divine oversight and sees all, but he does not control all. He knows everything. Life is real and dynamic. It is not determined. God's purposes are determined, but not every moment.
If you are going to get angry and point fingers; then point at the right object - life. Get angry at life, shake it up! This isn't God's best, this isn't his intention. Pray as the church prayed historically, "Come, Lord Jesus." Ask God, "Lord, what can I learn from these experiences? Give me your strength to endure. Help me to pray your will." It is important to pray God's will-pray for healing, pray for restoration, pray for redemption, but also pray for strength.
James says, "Consider it pure joy...." Now, that's an odd phrase. Literally, this means "Fix it in your mind that when you face adversity, you will respond with joy." Loosely translated, this means “Be happy, laugh, sing, dance.” The image is of a person determined to stay positive, determined that adversity will not defeat them, determined to believe the best.
Because in the wisdom of God, beyond the fact that we have a God to call upon who is watching over us, joy is the only emotion that will help us get through adversity. Think of all the emotions that you could experience: anger, anxiety, denial, depression, doubt, stressing-out, or just trying to bear all of life's burdens on your shoulders. None of them help you. They only deplete your energy and pull you farther down than you were before! Only joy will help you walk through adversity and make you successful in spite of it.
- Decide in your heart that you will not be defeated, disillusioned, crushed or perplexed.
- Decide in your heart that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
- You do not need to fear the future because you know who holds the future in his hands.
- You need to know that God's purpose is to make you the head -and not the tail.
- You know that He holds the keys to hell, death and the grave.
- Know that He is with you and that He loves you.
- And as a result, consider it pure joy.
LESSONS FROM THE GYM
The Bible verse above alludes to learning patience from adversity. Another way to translate this would be endurance or staying power. Patience is what the trucker needed when he decided to drive around the barrier to save a few minutes. Because he lacked patience, he lost his life. The Apostle Paul writes that adversity brings character, and James concludes by saying adversity, if you allow it, will complete you and make you mature, strong, -as strong as iron. How? Because adversity is the gym of our interior selves. It is the only way we develop as a person.
We know how to develop physically. We know that when training, the only way to get strong and fit is through some kind of resistance. Just as resistance is health to our body, adversity is the gym that develops character. It is not popular to say this -because in our culture we have learned that adversity is something to avoid. Even Christians try to pray away adversity in life.
PASTOR – PATIENT - PATIENCE
"I remember driving into Pittsburgh early one morning to go to surgery. I got up a little later than I intended so I was buzzing down the highway. (Why is it that when you are most in need of some speed, there is always someone slow in front of you?)
There was no way to get around the person in front of me. The longer I drove, the more I wanted to shout at the person in front of me to go faster –but it didn't happen.
A few miles down the road, I began to say, 'God, you know I have to get to the hospital. You know I have to be there for surgery. Do something! Don't you care?'
A few more miles down the road, I fell into despair and thought, "I'm not going to get there in time. I might as well pack my bags. I'm in trouble now."
Then after a few more miles, I finally became humble and said things like, 'God, please. I'm begging you to remove them. Make them turn at the next exit.' But God never did - because he wanted me in that situation. At that moment, he wanted to teach me to be patient. Somewhere later in my life, I will need to have patience."
When we pray ourselves out of adversity, we are praying ourselves out of God's gym. God wants to develop some things in our life because he knows that down the road we are going to need these things to survive. Don't be so quick to pray yourself out of adversity. It may be God's workshop to build into you something that you will need later on.
Don't short-cut God when you experience adversity. Ask him, "Lord, what do you want to teach me?" Use it as an opportunity to grow. Do as Charles and Esther Darrow did -they accepted adversity as part of life and refused to allow it to steal their joy. They worked through it, and God helped them. They learned through the situation, and they kept laughing.
Back in 1932 Charles Darrow was out of a job, broke, and his wife Esther was expecting a baby. Although he was a heating engineer, there were no jobs available and Charles and Esther were just barely subsisting on the few odd jobs he could get as a handyman. Things were bleak. Fate didn't reckon with the courage of this man and his wife, however. They laughed at it, literally.
In the evenings, to take their minds off their troubles, they played a little game in which they could pretend they were millionaires, recalling pleasant vacations in nearby Atlantic City. They reconstructed the area adjoining the boardwalk. Darrow carved hotels and houses out of small pieces of wood, and they called the game “Monopoly.” He patented it and copyrighted it, and three years later, the game was marketed by Parker Brothers, and the Darrows became millionaires! They allowed adversity to make them instead of break them.
When you face adversity, are you going to allow it to break you or make you? It's your choice. I’ll be praying for you.
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