Dealing With Adversity

by James Rudy Gray

It probably goes without saying that almost all the counseling we do is with people who are dealing some particular problem. We humans do not like pain. It is not natural and it is not enjoyable. Something has gone wrong somewhere, somehow, someway when we experience pain. But it is often necessary. 

People find themselves in painful circumstances for a variety of reasons. However, one of the reasons for our adversity may be overlooked. It could be that God has led us to a place of pain in order do something in our lives that otherwise would never be done.

Recently, I introduced Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, to a chapel service on a Christian university campus. He brought a dynamic message, but one particular point he made is certainly worth hearing: When adversity strikes, what then? Dr. Kelley noted,  "When we follow Jesus we may not always be safe, but we will always be secure." He then related the pain he and the seminary family experienced as a result of Hurricane Katrina. People who were led to a place by God also experienced pain. Their belongings, etc., were not safe, but they themselves were secure in Christ.

When we counsel with people who are hurting and there is no particular diagnosis available to identify their symptoms or no particular personality disorder to organize their difficulty, what then? Perhaps, at that moment our greatest work as counselors may involve helping that hurting person see that God is sovereign over everything. He loves His people and demonstrates incredible awareness of their every pain. He is not far away.  He cares. But, clients may often ask, "Why am I going through this?" Or they may speak out of their frustration and say, "I just cannot take this anymore!"  What then?

What we focus on always determines how we see something. It can be very helpful to aid counselees to step away from their personal circumstances and examine the marvelous power, grace, and love of God.  The adage often used among exercise enthusiasts, "No pain, no gain" can be appropriate for our maturing as children of God.

Job 5:6-7 presents an interesting thought, "Affliction does not come from the dust, Nor does trouble sprout from the ground, For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward." Trouble is not alien to the human race, but it has never been welcomed.  Sometimes we fear it. At other times we are paralyzed by it.

Still, trouble is not always a sign that a person is wrong, but that something is wrong. Even in the midst of trouble, our sovereign Lord remains in control of our circumstances. A Christian can even become so troubled in heart and mind that he wonders if God knows or if He cares. After all, the disciples felt this way when they encountered a storm on the Sea of Galilee, with Jesus asleep in the stern of the boat. But, Christ never loses control of any situation anywhere-that is the truth we must try to help people grasp. 

If a person really knows that God knows-it is enough. Beyond that, His children are invited to call on Him in the time of trouble. Does prayer change things? Yes!  Prayer does not change God, but it does change things because it is one of the God-ordained means of grace God Himself has chosen to work through in this world.

Most of us who counsel others must be sure we listen carefully and empathetically.  We must also be committed to pray for and with those we try to help.

Most successful people have had their share of failures, troubles, and difficulties.  Most of the outstanding saints of God in Scripture lived through adversity and discovered the unchanging reality of God's grace.

Counselors should never give a person false hope. Neither should we fail to provide counselees with the kind of hope that we find in the pages of God's truth.

Trouble and adversity will come to everyone. Does it make us stronger and better? That depends on how we deal with it. Charles Stanley, in his book How to Handle Adversity, writes: "Adversity removes the cloak of ‘what we are supposed to be' to reveal the truth of what we are. And as painful as it may be, it is only then that God can complete what He has begun."

A counselor may be called upon to help someone walk through a time of trouble and adversity. We may have few answers and many perplexities about the situation ourselves.  But God is still the same caring, sovereign, loving, and involved God. Our clients may not always need answers when they go through the valley of trouble.  Maybe they need to be assured that God is with them.

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