One reason God allows adversity in our lives is to get our attention. He’s acutely aware of when we’re too preoccupied with ourselves and our interests. God knows when it’s time to plan an interruption so we will take notice.
The question immediately arises: Isn’t there another way to capture our attention? Theoretically, the answer is yes. There are other means besides adversity. But it usually takes a jolt of some kind to bring us around. In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis put it this way: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”
When things go our way, it is sometimes difficult to turn our thoughts to God. If all is well, we may quickly drift into a state of self-reliance and smugness. Our prayers can become lifeless, and the Word of God may start to sound unappealing to our complacent ears. To make matters worse, we can begin to confuse our sense of well-being with spirituality. When nothing is wrong, we falsely assume that everything is right.
Anyone who has been involved in evangelism knows what I’m talking about. It is next to impossible for an unbeliever with no pressing problems to see the need for a Savior. That person might figure, When everything is fine, why “mess it up” with God? But come back to the same man or woman after adversity has struck, and you will find a completely different attitude.
Such is the power of adversity. Difficulties can bring even the strongest and most stubborn of us to our knees. Consider Saul, who later became the apostle Paul. As he traveled to Damascus to arrest believers, God struck him down with blinding light, humiliating him in front of his traveling companions. No doubt assuming his blindness was permanent, Saul was now ready to listen to God. As the truth settled in that Christ was the Messiah, he realized his error. A few days later, Saul proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues (Acts 9:20). He was among the first to take the Great Commission seriously—He planted churches across the Roman Empire, and he preached to both Gentiles and Jews.
What about you? What could God accomplish through you if He had your undivided attention and loyalty? We sometimes forget that when God looks at our lives, He sees not only our past, but our potential future as well. He sees the lost soul with whom we’ll have an opportunity to share. He knows who among us could be great preachers, writers, debaters, or teachers. And from the perspective of eternity, whatever it would take to get our attention would be worth it.
To some, this whole notion may sound cruel and unfair. And to be honest, in the midst of a situation where God was working to gain my undivided attention, I had my doubts as well. But we are the ones who are unfair when we label God as cruel. Our stubbornness and insensitivity to His Spirit may cause Him to resort to means we may consider unpleasant. Our preoccupation and infatuation with the things of this world diminish our spiritual sensitivity. And if we are really honest with ourselves, we would realize we often leave God no choice.
If you are facing adversity, God may be trying to get your attention about a specific sin. He may be in the process of steering your affections away from worldly things. God may know that you are on the verge of making a major mistake. Perhaps He wants to intensify His relationship with you during this time of decision making. Whatever your circumstances may be, rest assured that God doesn’t act without a purpose. If He’s allowed adversity to enter your world, He has something exciting in store for you!
Adapted from How to Handle Adversity (1989), available for purchase in our online store.