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Church Signs VI: Opportunities

My eight-year-old daughter was with me when we first saw this sign. When she read it, her eyes narrowed and her head tilted to the side.

“That doesn’t sound right,” she said, looking at me.

“Well, it doesn’t sound right to a lot of people,” I told her.

We talked a bit about what many of us think it means to be blessed—to have a nice house, a nice car, good things happening to us. And those can be blessings. But when something bad happens, most of us experience that as the opposite of a blessing. We even see it as if we are being punished for something.

But people who follow Jesus, I told her, see bad things happening as opportunities—chances to trust God and learn that he really is who he says he is and can do what he says he can do.

“Oh, okay,” she said and promptly moved onto another thought.

Heh. I wish I could accept that as easily as she. Adversities in life often hit me like a ton of bricks, knocking me off balance and sometimes to the ground. They can cause me to question, rail at God and distract me beyond comprehension.

But, in the last few years at least, I’m beginning to get the concept that adversities really are blessings in disguise. I’ve started to believe that God really is good and that he can be trusted. I’m beginning to get a bit of a grasp on what Paul means when he says “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3-5 Message). And I’m not sure that would have happened without those very hard times.

Don’t get the wrong picture here. I still reel like a clocked boxer when one of those bad moments hits; I’m thinking I probably always will. And often the practice of trusting God—and believing that he is who he says and can do what he says and really does love me—is a constant, minute-by-minute and seemingly endless turning back to him for days on end. The questions come, the anger rises and I fight to remember in whose arms I am.

On reflection, however, there’s also more of the thing Paul talks about, the generous pouring of God into my life. Sometimes, I can’t see how much that happens in the midst of those adversities. Sometimes I can’t see it at all. But later, when I’ve walked awhile (and sometimes that is quite a distance), I’m finding consistently that it’s there. I’m saying more often, with conviction, O Lord, you are good. And to know he's good, for me at least, is a blessing of the most unexpected and best kind.


Kari Z. Murphy said…
Oh, Carmen,
Your post is so very true and so very well written. I am ever so slowly learning to welcome adversity...though truth be told I am not doing very well to welcome it when I am in the throes of it.

Thank you for a post that really "hit home."

In Christ alone,
Carmen Andres said…
kari, thanks for the visit -- i loved your post on God's love for us! blessings.
David said…
One of the big advances for me in dealing with adversity has been giving up the belief that God is 'in control' of everything that happens. Then rather than wrestle with God's goodness, you can accept that he hates evil, poverty, death, etc. and longs to be with us in it and take us through it. God, of course, takes the opportunity of adversity to build character in us. Just like I don't don't break my kids toys to teach them that toys aren't everything, but when it happens, I use the opportunity! This of course opens up wider questions -happy to discuss!
Carmen Andres said…
david, as always, a true pleasure to hear from you! and i'm wondering if our thinking overlaps so much that there might not be that much to discuss, heh.

i might still argue that God is in control, but not in the way many of us are taught. it's more like your example of the toys being broken. there's free-will and free-will used for our own will (or out of our wisdom) often brings adversity, either for ourselves or others. also, we live in a creation that is clipping along fallen -- less than what God intended. things get broken. things are broken. which brings adversity. it's not what God intended or wants for us or his creation.

my big advance had to do with something similiar to yours: giving up the idea that God "causes" all to happen; in it's place i began grasping the truth that he is good, all powerful and working his plan (to restore and redeem his creation) together in spite of all we or others do (intentionally or not) to thwart it (ie, live and go our own way instead of his way, which is true and love and beauty and all that is good). and yes, that beautiful truth that he hates evil, poverty, death, etc. and what it does to his creation (which includes us, his creations) and longs to be with us in it was/is a transforming (and beyond comforting) realization as well.

any thoughts? again, thanks for stopping by. i enjoy your thoughts and our discussions. they move me along in the journey.