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Dealing with Adversity

During this time of fear and uncertainty because of the covid-19 virus, I think it helps to remember certain things about God and healing.

God is concerned about physical and emotional healing, but his ultimate concern is the healing of our souls. God sometimes heals our bodies and minds. And all healing finds its roots in God. Jesus spent much of his ministry healing people. Why did Jesus heal? He healed out of compassion. He healed to reverse the effects of sin. He healed to give glory to the Father.

And yet there were so many people that Jesus didn’t heal. There are only a few dozen healings in the gospels. A handful of resurrections from the dead. Why? Because Jesus’ healings pointed to a much greater purpose. The healing acts of Jesus were the message that he had come to set men free. Every healing pointed back to a time in Eden when bodies did not go blind, or get crippled, or bleed nonstop for 12 years. Healings also pointed forward to a time of re-creation to come. God is no more satisfied with this earth than we are. Jesus’ healings give us a hint as to what God intends to do about it.

But God’s approach to our problems is soulistic. Some people seem obsessed with the subject of physical healing. But the focus on physical healing can divert our attention from our most pressing need: spiritual healing. Look at these texts:

2 Chronicles 7: 14 “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

3 John 2, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” God is not nearly so concerned with our physical health as He is our spiritual health.

Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Jesus healed hands that couldn’t work and feet that couldn’t walk. He gave sight to eyes that couldn’t see. But here he speaks metaphorically and says, gouge out your eye, cut off your hand if it causes you to sin. Jesus knows that the physical body counts. But spiritual health trumps your physical health.

Physical and emotional suffering sometimes serve to produce the ultimate healing that we need.

Exodus 17 tells the story of God’s sending plagues on the Egyptians as a physical test to the people of Israel. Exodus 17:25, “There He made for them a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test.” What was the test? “If you pay attention and do what I tell you to do, you can avoid the fate of the Egyptians!” God put the plagues on the Egyptians because they ignored him. Now God says, you don’t have to repeat the history of the Egyptians. Do what I tell you, and you won’t suffer like they suffered. Now Moses isn’t saying the people won’t go thru illness and death. But he is saying that they can avoid the kinds of plagues the Egyptians had to go through.

Someone says, does God deliver plagues into people’s lives like he did with the Egyptians? I don’t know. But I do know that sometimes God let’s us go thru hard times to help us grow. Hebrews 12:7, 10, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?...No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Tony Evans writes: “You could be in a dry land even while being in God’s will. You could be in God’s will and not have a job. You could be in God’s will and not experience perfect physical health…This is because tests (or trials) are designed to do two things: They demonstrate whether we’ve been paying attention to the lessons we’ve learned, and they give God opportunities to reveal something new about Himself, which develops our character and strengthens our faith.”

Temporary troubles help us grasp eternal realities. Sometimes adversity is the only thing that will point us to the ultimate healing that we need. Just as a sculptor continues to work on his masterpiece, God continues to fashion us. We would prefer that God leave our lives alone, that He allow our lives to be just a childlike sketch. But God is interested in making us the best that we can be. He wants us to fulfill our full potential before Him. So he keeps on erasing and scraping and rubbing so we emerge a great work.

A young boy found a cocoon in his backyard. He looked for signs of life. Finally he looked inside the filmy shell and saw a newly formed butterfly was struggling to get out. The boy felt sorry for the little creature. So he used his pocket knife to enlarge the hole. The butterfly was exhausted and tumbled out and lay there. But the boy didn’t realize that the struggle to escape was designed to strengthen the butterfly’s muscles and prepare it for flight. The boy thought he was doing the right thing. But he had inadvertently crippled and doomed the butterfly.

These are challenging times. But let’s look for the lessons that God may want us to learn as we deal with adversity!

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