Narrowing the topic of adversities to apply to changes and losses during the advanced chronological season of my life, I can make alternative responses. I have a choice. My response may determine how long the Lord allows me to struggle with a particular adversity. Of course, I want an instant escape or a quick rescue. I want the adversity to vanish immediately in answer to my prayer for help.
Dr. Andrew Murray, an internationally famous Protestant minister, prolific author, and missionary in South Africa during the late nineteenth century, wrote the following good spiritual counsel:
“In time of trouble say,
I am here—
by God's appointment
In His keeping
Under His training
For His time.”
As much as I want to hurry the process of being rid of my adversity or present storm, I need to first learn well whatever lesson God had in mind to teach me. I need to behave like a good child of God, not a disobedient rebel stamping my feet and pouting. Jesus will not calm my storm with His command “Peace! Be still!” before I have completed my classwork satisfactorily. If I'm still in spiritual kindergarten in the matter of dealing with adversities when I'm elderly, it's time to grow up and mature in my attitude. I can still make the right choices now and advance to at least first grade.
I can either—
Groan about them—or grow through them
Become bitter—or better
Throw a pity party—or have a praise and trust celebration
Dig in my heels and resist God's work in me—or embrace and learn from it
Admit defeat—or move on to victory
Whine and complain—or ask the Lord what His purpose is
Be grumpy—or “count it all joy”
Ignore the problems—or deal with them in Christ
Give up—or press on
Settle for personal survival—or reach out to help others
Say “No, Lord!”—or “Yes, Lord!”
Those of us who are advanced in years, often need help going up the steps. The Lord will gently but firmly hold my hand and help me up the steps in my struggle with adversities:
My first step is to be “Well content,” as Saint Paul demonstrated when he accepted God's better answer to his prayer for relief from his thorn. I should learn to echo the words of the hymn, “When peace like a river attendeth my way or sorrow like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well with my soul.'” Whatever my lot—whether my adversity is removed or I am permanently stuck with my thorn.
My second step is to “Consider it all joy” (James1:2). This seems difficult, but I should “take pleasure, delight, be quite happy, glory in” with the words of Paul, no matter how God has decided to answer my prayer for relief from my adversity.
The third step is a natural consequence. “Comfort others.” I shouldn't waste my grief from my learning experience. From the Living Bible paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 1:4, “...So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.” God allows me to feel pain or experience trouble to teach me compassion and to identify with the pain of others and how to respond to it.
Whatever I am going through, I shouldn't let my adversity define who I am or how others perceive me. Nor should I use any adversity or trial to solicit pity or attention toward myself. God often shows His mercy and grace through healing. I shouldn't hesitate to ask in faith first, as Saint Paul did. God didn't reprimand him for asking, but gave him a better answer. After asking for deliverance, I should accept God's decision whether the answer is healing or endurance with His sufficient grace.
It is well with my soul either way.