…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Rom 5:3b-5
Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
No one likes adversity. I've never had coworkers express how happy they are with bad situations at work or a friend say how joyful they are at the latest fight they've had with their wife. It's nonsensical to us. Usually tough times are something to complain about or, if we've been taught to not express negative sentiments like that, something to stew about on the inside.
I'm no different. I don't like it when times are difficult.
I have a system for working it out in my brain and identifying where the problems in my life are. I call them the spheres of my life. I have the home/family sphere, which involves my relationships with my wife and kids. I have my work sphere, which involves my ability to provide for my family and the environment I spend the majority of my time in. I have my friends sphere, which is where I socialize and have fun. Last, I have my church sphere, where there's my faith and what I've devoted my life to building. I can usually handle a crisis or major issue in one of those spheres at a time. If there are big problems in two spheres I'll usually be barely hanging on and need a lot of help and support from the other areas of my life.
In the last couple of years during this COVID season, I've had rolling issues through absolutely every sphere. There's been disagreement in the family over COVID issues, my wife and I were working out some marriage issues, people have left the church over our response to COVID (for various reasons all across the spectrum), we've had to pivot as a church time and time again depending on the various levels of restrictions, there's been constant threat to our provision and our work environments have significantly changed, and we've been restricted from seeing friends and socializing. I can't think of a more challenging time of life that has encompassed so many areas of living.
So saying, I've noticed a disturbing trend whereas when I go through pleasant times, I don't really grow as a person. It seems to be in the adversity where I get shaken down to the core of my life and I start to re-examine everything from the ground up. In that process, I refine what I'm giving my life to, why I'm giving it, what's really important to me, and am I living according to the things that are important. My character also grows. It's only when you're challenged and stretched that you have the opportunity to put your values into action.
Throughout this COVID season, I've had to stretch to figure out what I really believe about all of this. I've also had to continually re-examine why I've made the decisions that I've made. This process has really strengthened my decision-making. It's made me identify the emotions that I'm feeling. It's made me critically examine the news that I receive and what my bias is. These are all good things. As much as I'm tempted to whine and complain because I haven't gotten to live my life the way that I want to, I have to realize that I'm much more of a complete person because of the adversity that COVID has brought.
I think this is what the goal of this season needs to be. It's not just surviving until the end. It's not just "getting through". It's learning how to come through these various trials with strength so that we're better people, living according to our values more, by the time that the adversity is gone. I want to come out of this with emotional strength from all of the emotional heavy lifting that I've done. Just like when we go to the gym, when we have to push up against something, we should be stronger for it. The journey may not be that pleasant, but the results are pretty nice.
So if you're feeling adversity, take it as an opportunity. If you handle this well, approaching it with humility and a willingness to learn your lessons, you'll come out the other side with strength. This is your moment to grow as a person.
Remember also that we don't go through life alone. There are people that love and care for you and want to help you through. They can help you process through these things of your life and point you in the right direction. If you need help, reach out. If you're in a good place, reach out to someone else in need. We can get through this together and be stronger for it.