God’s Purpose in Adversity

Posted on February 19, 2013 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

Rankin-Devotional“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

We recently traveled back to Indonesia with our daughter’s family to introduce her husband and children to her roots there. Along the way we recalled stories and experiences during our nightly devotionals about the years of missionary service in the 1970s. One subject of this sharing time focused on the adversity of our first term.

We had just arrived at our isolated assignment in East Java, more than four hours from any other western family. We began to be afflicted with staph infections with boils breaking out all over our bodies. Our 2-year-old son almost died when one of these infections on his forehead drained into his brain. Bobbye had to have unexpected major surgery, then she and I both came down with dengue fever; it is sometimes called “breakbone” fever because the pain is so severe and nothing will alleviate the symptoms. In the midst of this illness we received a call informing us Bobbye’s parents were in an accident and her father had been killed.

All we wanted to do was serve the Lord and finally, in the place God had called us, tell people about Jesus. We had sacrificed and followed His call obediently. Why was God allowing such adversity? Why didn’t He put a hedge of protection around us so we would not be afflicted with illness and tragedy inhibiting and distracting us from our ministry and witness?

The Apostle Paul enumerated quite a litany of hardships and adversity which he encountered in his missionary travels. In our focus passage he prayed that God would relieve him of his “thorn in the flesh” but God chose not to. He explains that God allowed adversity so Paul would not take pride in himself but would rather realize his need to depend on God.

When everything is going well and we never encounter any problems or challenges to our faith, it is common to become complacent and take God’s grace for granted. We have a natural tendency to feel self-confident and deserving of the well-being of a trouble-free life. However, God is glorified when we are humbled and recognize our dependency on Him. We are actually blessed when we have the opportunity to experience His power and all-sufficient grace because of our own neediness and inadequacy.

Our faithfulness in times of suffering and adversity can also be our greatest opportunity to reflect the reality of our faith and the victorious presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.

In another passage Paul observed that we need to experience God’s comfort as that equips us to comfort and minister to others, having walked the path of suffering ourselves.

So, what is God’s purpose in adversity? Paul summarizes this testimony by saying, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

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