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Leapfrogging Through Adversity
Devotional for the
week of April 24, 2017
Did you ever play leapfrog? This child’s game is a great image for the opportunity that we have when we face adversity. Adversity will come. In fact, adversity has many faces and most often does not send an invitation announcing its arrival. Instead, it barrels its way into our lives, all the while challenging us. Is this a good or bad thing? Well, it depends. The way you view adversity – walk through adversity and learn– determines the good or bad of adversity.
Bob the mentor sat with me in a moment of great adversity in my life. All the plans I had for my future had crumbled to the ground and, instead of this life I was expecting to live, I was stuck with the pain of adversity and the blankness of a future I knew nothing about! It was at lunch that he discerned it was time to help me leapfrog through the adversity.
Our scriptures are quite authentic in sharing the reality of adversity. Person after person, faithful to God, faced adversity in their own lives. There was Moses, trying to convince both the Hebrews (his own people) to follow, as well as Pharaoh to let Moses’ people go. There was David, hiding in caves from Saul, wondering how he might survive (later he becomes king!). Then there was Jesus, facing the adversity of false testimony, crowds shouting ‘Crucify’, and his closest friends slinking into the background. Adversity, you see, is not a matter of how faithful you are to God. Instead, adversity is the invitation to walk in faith and trust that God is at work! Adversity is one of our greatest teachers! This week, we’ll explore the power of adversity, as a spiritual tool, in pursuit of transformation.
The first story that Bob invited me to study was that of Joseph. This Old Testament hero is one who exemplifies faithfulness in the midst of adversity. Perhaps you have read his story before, but if you are willing, reading it in its entirety grants the fullness of adversity and Joseph’s response. Read Genesis 37-50 (Yes, that is a lot, but well worth it!!) As you read, jot down moments of adversity that you find and Joseph’s response to the adversity.
It is a remarkable story of highs and lows. It is a story of one who seemingly has every reason to be bitter and vengeful. Yet, he exudes grace instead. The key passage that always jumps out to me is in the last chapter. It says,
“But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I God? You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today. Now, don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” So he put them at ease and spoke reassuringly to them.
Did you get it? What was meant for bad, God used for good! What faith and grace! For a moment, think upon your life—in moments of adversity, how has God used those moments for good?
At times, adversity is caused by others (like Joseph’s story). At other times, our decisions function as the genesis of adversity. Just think of the reluctant prophet Jonah! The adversity he encounters is completely caused by his decisions. Read Jonah 1. What does he do when he hears God’s invitation to go and share a message from God? He runs! In fact, he runs in the opposite direction!
In the midst of the storm (adversity), he knows already that he is the cause of the chaos. The metaphors in this first chapter are rich! Knowing that he is the root cause, notice that he doesn’t jump ship; instead, he pushes the sailors to do it! Why? Is it that he is wallowing in his poor choice? Or due to his complete lack of desire to do anything different?
And while he is treading water, God shows up! God shows up in the midst of his indifference and in the reality that he cannot survive the sea. God rescues him in the midst of his adversity! Too often we have a belief that God punishes us and/or abandons us in the midst of our adversity. I wonder if Jonah knew that God would show up, even in the midst of his own self-created chaos, to rescue and invite him, once more, to walk with God and do God’s work?
Does God experience adversity? It was this simple question, from Bob, that led me on a journey of wondering, pondering and exploration. How would you answer that question?
One of the more scandalous stories of the scripture is the Hosea. This book is ripe with metaphor, as God expresses God’s faithfulness to his beloved people, Israel! Read Hosea 1:2-9. Did you get the metaphors? Hosea (God) is to marry a prostitute (Israel) even though she will be unfaithful. Through their children, it would appear that God turns his back on this people by naming them “God sows,” “No Compassion/Mercy” and “Not my people.”
What a powerful way to grab attention! God is speaking through the prophet, proclaiming that his very own people are unfaithful—what is he to do? Is it divine punishment? Is it divorce? Read Hosea 1:10-11. These words are words of the covenant, given to Abraham! God will be faithful and they will return. The rest of the prophecy is an invitation for Gomer (Israel) to return to her first love, Hosea! God, you see, lives through adversity by being faithful to, and inviting back, a wayward people! His choice is mercy and love!
Among the disciples there is one that is painted for being quick in speech. This doesn’t always turn out well for him! Peter has this ability to speak first and at times find rebuke. Once, Jesus said to him, “Get behind me Satan!” Now, Jesus wasn’t saying Peter was Satan, but instead, his quick response was not the way of God.
The infamous story of Peter’s denial of Jesus must have been a profound moment of adversity. Jesus says to him, ‘Before the cock crows three times you will deny me.’ Peter quickly shoots back, ‘No I won’t! Even if I must die, I will never desert you!’ Well, we know what happens—Jesus is betrayed and Peter is quick to deny his acquaintance with Jesus.
Read John 21:15-19. What happens here? Peter is given a second chance! In the midst of his adversity, he did exactly what Jesus said. I would imagine his grief was deep at Jesus’ death and the subsequent days. How could I have denied him? What is wrong with me? If only I could go back in time…
That is the way of Jesus—granting us second, third, and countless other chances! Thanks be to God!! Through this encounter, Peter leaves empowered and the leader of the church…some even say he was the first Pope! God always invites us to come and to follow, even when we have missed the mark!
Adversity is often the best teacher. It allows us to reach deeper into God and into ourselves. Seldom do we welcome adversity but if we are wise, we learn to see it as a gift. Billy Graham once shared that “Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.” It is by learning to leapfrog adversity that we discover the richer places of our soul, and a peace that surpasses all understanding!
The Apostle Paul is one who understood this well! He spent much time traveling, as he spread the Good News, yet he also spent much time in prison. Surprisingly, the Letter to the Philippians was written from prison and this letter is known as the ‘Joyous Letter!’ Within it, he speaks of the joy of following God through the midst of adversity, for it is in adversity that we see God move most!
Read Philippians 4:10-14. I long for that perspective, in which, in all situations, I can find a contentment of the soul, for God is at work and can do all things who grants me strength! What adversity are you facing? What lessons are you learning? Are you leapfrogging into a deeper place filled with a larger faith and a bigger trust in God?
- Central Union Church -