Adversity and Affliction – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceAdversity and Affliction – Introduction

One thing in life is certain – we will all face adversity and affliction. It’s not the events in and of themselves that define us, it’s how we choose to respond. Do we let the trials and tribulations of life move us away from God? Or, do we allow adversity and affliction to move us closer to God; taking comfort in His love, and in His guidance – knowing that we will come out of whatever situation we find ourselves in stronger – perhaps more loving, a little kinder, or a little more forgiving?

Spiritual Quote

“That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
~Friedrich Nietzsche

Thoughts

Adversity:

  • Hebrew – grief, pain, sorrow, calamity
  • Greek – suffer torment

Affliction:

  • Hebrew, several words – grief, sorry, pain, bruise, destruction, hurt
  • Greek – hardship, suffering pain

On the face of it, Adversity and Affliction seem to be interchangeable. However, they do have slightly different meanings. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Adversity as, “a difficult situation or condition, misfortune or tragedy; a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune. Affliction is defined as, “something, such as disease, that causes pain or suffering; the state of being affected by something that causes suffering.”

Think of Job and all he went through. He lost all his property and wealth, and all of his children…Adversity. He also suffered boils from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head – Affliction.

We all face affliction and adversity at some time or another. Sometimes, it seems like they just keep piling up, one on top of the other. Job loss or reduced hours, financial difficulties, car repairs, damaged or broken relationships, medical issues, the death of a loved one – the list is endless. Living a mortal, human life, we can’t escape affliction and adversity. In John 16:33, Jesus reminds us of this fact when He said, “…In this world you will have trouble…” And Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…”

The question isn’t whether bad things will happen. The question is, will we allow the bad things to move us away from God, or closer to Him? How will we choose to respond?

Illustration:

I have a dear friend who is living with terminal cancer. I say living with instead of dealing with on purpose. He could sit and wallow in self pity. He could complain about how unfair it all is. Like Job, he’s led a good life; he’s an honest man who has dedicated his life to his family and to helping others. He could easily sit and ask, “why is God doing this (or allowing this)?” Instead, he thanks God for the wonderful life he has experienced. Though he’s had this horrible diagnosis and prognosis, he has chosen to live. He wakes every morning thankful that he has another day to spend with his wife, children, and grandchildren. As his health allows, he still attends meetings and events with a local service organization devoted to helping children in our community. His faith has made it possible to face what we all must eventually face – our own mortality. Rather than allowing his affliction to move him away from God, it has moved him closer – and he’s living his life fully.

Illustration:

Conversely, my former mother-in-law, my first husband’s mother, remains mired in grief. She professes to be a devout Christian; and I have no doubt that she is a believer. But her faith brings her no comfort. She cries and mourns the losses of her husband and her son every day. Rather than going through the grief process, being thankful for the time they shared, and moving on and living life, she merely exists. She finds no joy in living. It’s been over 20 years since her husband passed away, and 19 years since her son, my husband, passed, she lives her life mired in the pain and grief of loss.

There’s a passage in Romans that, when taken in the right context, can bring us comfort in times of adversity and affliction. Unfortunately, it can also be overused and can become simply a cliche. Romans 8:28 tells us, “We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good…” This doesn’t for one moment mean that tragedies are good. It simply means that with God, if we stay close to Him through whatever situation we might be facing or experiencing, something good can come as a result. If we face and overcome addiction – perhaps we’re more compassionate to, or we find ways to help, those still struggling. If we’ve experienced homelessness, perhaps we find ways to help the homeless. Maybe we’ve experienced the loss of someone dear whose life was touched by hospice, and that experience instills a desire in us to volunteer with hospice. Or, like my friend living with cancer, significant health issues create the desire to live our lives as fully and as completely as we possibly can, despite the challenges.

Illustration*:

Many years ago a little girl was totally blind. She was blinded as an infant as the result of an accident. She lived to be over 90 years old. She became well-known in the American church. She wrote many popular Christian songs and choruses. Her name was Fanny Crosby. When she was only eight years old, she wrote:

Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see.
I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t.
To weep and sigh because I’m blind–I cannot and I won’t.

Illustration*:

When he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home on a legal technicality, and he had to work to help support them. At age nine, his mother died. At 22, he lost his job as a store clerk. He wanted to go to law school, but his education wasn’t good enough. At 23, he went into debt to become a partner in a small store. At 26, his business partner died, leaving him a huge debt that took years to repay. At 28, after courting a girl for four years, he asked her to marry him. She said no. At 37, on his third try he was elected to Congress, but two years later, he failed to be reelected. At 41, his four-year-old son died. At 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. At 47, he failed as the vice-presidential candidate. At 49, he ran for the Senate again, and lost. At 51, he was elected president of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln, a man many consider the greatest leader the country ever had. Some people get all the breaks.

What’s the point? We will all experience adversity and affliction. Life isn’t necessarily fair. Yet, we always have a choice. We can wallow in self pity, looking back at what we’ve lost; or we can look forward, with faith, and anticipate God blessing us in new and wonderful ways.

A wonderful example of this type of faith is found in Genesis 26:12-28. In this set of passages, we read about Issac – a man of God who was promised the blessings of God. Verse 1 tells us there was a famine in the land, the land of Gerar, which is located outside of the Promised Land. Yet, despite the famine, in verses 12-14 we read that God blessed Isaac with a bountiful harvest, possessions, flocks, herds, and a great number of servants. Of course, the Philistines were extremely envious.  In their jealousy, they stopped up all the wells and filled them with dirt; and the king, Abimelech, told Isaac to go away because he was mightier than they (vs 15-16).

Now, Isaac could have gone off in any direction. He could have wallowed in the misery of having his wells destroyed and having to move. He could have allowed the situation to move him away from God. Who could blame him? They didn’t have air conditioned moving vans. They didn’t have well-drilling equipment and machinery. Isaac certainly wouldn’t look forward to having to move and having to dig new wells with nothing but primitive shovels. But, go he must – the king had commanded it.

And where does Isaac go? Verses 17-23 tell us he went a ways, settled and dug a well. But the herdsman claimed the well. Isaac went further, dug another well, and again, a quarrel ensued, and he was forced to move on once again. Finally, he settled and dug a well, and no quarrel arose. He goes from there to Beersheba which, coincidentally, is located in the Promised Land. It is here that God appears to him and promises to bless him in fulfillment of His promise to Isaac’s father, Abraham (vs. 24). Metaphorically, the Promised Land represents the place where God’s chosen would live in a close relationship with Him. So, figuratively speaking, through the adversity, Isaac into a closer relationship with God. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy, but Isaac maintained his faith, knowing that God had blessed him once, and would do so again. And his faith, and his blessings, were clearly seen by others. Verses 25-28 tell of Isaac pitching his tent (settling down) and digging another well in Beersheba. Abimelech, along with one of his friends, Ahuzzath, and the commander of his army, Phichol, came to Isaac asking for a truce because they had certainly seen that the Lord was with him.

The same hold true for us. If we hold on to our faith and persevere through adversity and affliction, we will be a living example to others of God working in and through our lives. In that process, not only will we move closer in relationship with God, we might just inspire others to deepen their own relationship with Him as well.

Closing Thoughts

In this human, mortal life we will certainly be confronted with adversity and affliction. The choice will always be ours as to how we respond. Will we respond like my former mother-in-law – wallowing in the mire of grief over what’s been lost? Or, like Isaac and my dear friend living with cancer, will we allow our faith to move us into a closer relationship with God? Will we choose to live our lives to their fullest, seeking opportunities to learn and to grow, and to experience all of the wonderful blessings God has in store for us? Will we allow the adversity and affliction to weaken us, turning us into sad, depressed, hopeless, broken people – existing but not really living? Or, like Nietzsche says, will we allow the adversity and affliction to strengthen us?

One of the comforts we find through the Christian faith, and having a deep relationship with Jesus, is the fact that we don’t have to face our adversity and affliction alone. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus assures us, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” When adversity and affliction occur, instead of cursing God, as Job’s wife advised, we should turn to Him in prayer. Not simply asking for whatever the situation is to magically disappear. Rather, asking Jesus and the Holy Spirit to show us the way – to guide us in our thoughts, words, and actions. Let Jesus and the Holy Spirit open our eyes to the possibilites and the opportunities that lay before us, and give us the strength to persevere.

Acknowledgements

Pastor Larry Sarver Sermon

Scripture

  • John 16:33
  • Ecclesiastes 3
  • Romans 8:28
  • Genesis 26:12-28
  • Matthew 28:20
  • Philippians 4:13

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Sorry Isn’t Enough – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceSorry Isn’t Enough – Introduction

We’ve all wronged or hurt someone, and we’ve all been wronged or hurt. As Christians, we talk a lot about forgiveness. But, forgiveness isn’t the same as reconciliation. For Christians, forgiveness should be automatic. Reconciliation, on the other hand, may take some time. Reconciliation is a process; one that often begins with the words, “I’m sorry.” The truth is, most of the time, sorry isn’t enough.

Spiritual Quote

“It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited.”
~Lewis B. Smedes

Thoughts

Events this week have given me reason to think and pray about two things – forgiveness and reconciliation. And, more specifically, I’ve thought about those instances when sorry isn’t enough. Let me explain…

As you know, our monthly movie night was scheduled Friday, April 25th. And, as some of you know, we had to cancel our movie night because, earlier that day, seven DVDs were stolen – including the movie that was to be shown.

On Tuesday I went to the police station and filed the report. Now, the street value of the movies is next to nothing – a buck or two a piece. But, the cost to the church is extremely high. To show the movies in a public venue legally, we are required to buy a license. The movies we show don’t fall under a “master license.” Each movie requires its own separate license. On average, each movie and license costs approximately $125.00. That puts our loss for the seven DVDs at $875.00! To put this in perspective, that’s enough to pay our electric bill for 5 months. Or, since we provide food and shelter to the homeless, given our current monthly expenditure for food, the cost of replacing those seven DVDs could buy almost 6 months worth of food. This seemingly inconsequential theft had a very definite and consequential impact to our very limited church budget.

Our local paper prints a public notice of all police reports filed. Low and behold, a woman called to ask me questions about the DVDs and the theft. It turns out she owns a local pawn shop and she saw the notice in the paper. She, indeed, was in possession of all seven DVDs. What had our thieves gotten for their trouble? $7.00! It turns out this couple had been in her store before, she knows them, and was able to provide a description and even their names! Unfortunately, that information left me extremely disheartened – it’s a homeless couple who comes here for food and shelter on regular basis. In fact, they were here when I discovered the theft. But, because of the situation at the time, the fact that I knew them and had had numerous conversations with them in which they freely discussed their faith, and I had no reason not to trust them, I hadn’t seriously considered them suspect.

The pawn shop owner’s husband returned the movies Friday evening. I tried, but he refused to let me compensate them for their $7.00 loss. He said they wanted to return the movies because it was the right thing to do, and wouldn’t accept anything but our gratitude in return.

This situation prompted a lot of thought, and prayer, on my part. So many questions came into my mind. Once again our ability to forgive has been put to the test. But, beyond forgiveness, I began to question if reconciliation is possible. And, if so, what that should look like? What’s the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? Does forgiveness automatically mean that this couple should be welcomed back as if nothing ever happened? Could we tell them they’re not welcome here and still live up to our Christian values?

Now, we’ve talked a lot about forgiveness before – about how it’s a duty of Christians to forgive. In fact, some of you are probably saying, “Oh no, not again.” Take heart – yes, I want to talk today about forgiveness but, more importantly, I want to talk about reconciliation. I want to examine what we do when sorry isn’t enough.

Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation

Although forgiveness is, or at least should be, automatic – reconciliation is not.

Forgiveness is the means by which we release all negative aspects of the situation – anger, retaliation, vengeance, etc. Forgiveness requires nothing from the offending party – it is solely the responsibility of the injured party. Reconciliation, on the other hand, requires action from both the injured and the offender.

Let’s take a look at Paul’s words in Romans 12:17-21: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Paul clearly shows that forgiveness itself is one-sided – not returning evil for evil, doing what’s right in the eyes of everyone (remember the old saying – two wrongs don’t make a right), don’t be vengeful. But, Paul also says to live peaceably with everyone – as much as it depends on you. In other words, Paul recognizes there may be instances beyond your control that make a relationship with someone else impossible. For reconciliation to occur – both parties must do their part.

Reconciliation is a process through which, it is hoped, broken relationships can be restored. Unlike forgiveness, reconciliation can take time, and often places requirements on the offender – they have to do their part.

For small infractions, simply acknowledging the wrong and saying “I’m sorry” is sufficient. For more major offenses, however, saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough to rebuild or restore a broken relationship. Reconciliation requires a restoration of trust. We must be able to trust that the offending person is truly sorry, i.e. repentant. We must be able to trust he or she is sincere. We must be able to trust that the offense won’t be repeated. The offender must be able to trust that the injured party is sincere in his or her desire for reconciliation – that it won’t be constantly “thrown in their face.”

One of the first things that needs to happen is for the offender to admit his or her wrong and repent – which often comes in the form of “I’m sorry.” Saying “I’m sorry” should never be a requirement of forgiveness – because forgiveness should have no requirements. However, for the process of reconciliation to begin, the offender must acknowledge the wrong that has been committed, and demonstrate remorse.

There also needs to be a change in behavior and/or attitude. Saying “I’m sorry” without changing the offending behavior or attitude is superficial and meaningless.

What are some indications that a person is truly sorry? They accept responsibility. They don’t deny or downplay the hurt they’ve caused. They understand that rebuilding trust can take time, and they aren’t resentful that doubts as to their sincerity can arise. They don’t get defensive.

Now, even when the person is repentant, we may be hesitant to reconcile. In cases with safety concerns, such as violence or crimes against children, reconciliation may not be possible at all. Whenever possible, though, we must be open to the possibility of reconciliation. Jesus speaks to this in Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

If we’re hesitant, however, there are some things we can work through to help us (inspired by Pastor Steve Cornell):

Examine your motives. If placing guidelines or parameters around reconciliation, make sure they are not retaliatory or vengeful in nature.

  • Maintain a humble attitude. Don’t take a holier-than-thou or superior stance. If we have vengeful attitudes, or if we set ourselves up as somehow superior, we are being motivated by pride and not a true desire for reconciliation.
  • Pray for the offender. When we hold those who have offended us in prayer, our whole attitude toward them changes. We remember that they, too, are children of God and we create a desire to extend love rather than vengeance. Remember Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-28: “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
  • Admit whatever role we might have played in the situation. If we’ve responded in an unloving, unkind, unforgiving, or self-righteous manner, we may have inadvertently contributed to the breakdown of the relationship. This doesn’t excuse the offending person’s actions or behavior, but recognizing ways in which we might have contributed to the breakdown can help to speed the reconciliation process.
  • Be honest. If we need time to rebuild trust, or if there are specific actions or behaviors we feel are necessary, we must be honest with the one who hurt us. we must be careful, however, that this isn’t just a way of being manipulative and punishing.
  • If there are actions or behaviors that are required for reconciliation, be clear about them. But, again, be careful not to place guidelines around the reconciliation that are manipulative or vindictive in nature.
  • Make sure we are coming from a place of love and compassion, not a place of anger or resentment. Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29-5:2: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
  • Pray and look for ways that God can use this situation for good. Perhaps it opens opportunities for us to help and serve others; or to help others grown in the faith and relationship with God. Remember Paul’s words to the Romans in Chapter 8, verse 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…”
  • Finally, be realistic. Depending on the situation and the level of change in attitude or behavior required, the process take time and work. Even if we need to proceed cautiously, we must also realize that placing unreasonable demands on the offender, or expecting unrealistic guarantees will do little to foster a rebuilding of the relationship.

Back to our own situation and the couple that stole from us. Can we forgive them? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean we excuse their actions – that they don’t have to be held accountable. Will I notify the police that the DVDs have been returned? Yes – because it’s the right thing to do. Will I provide their names and description? Yes – because it’s the right thing to do. Will we welcome them back into the church? Ah…now we get down to the real question. If we say “yes” without any thought or hesitation, without placing some sort of guidelines around their coming back, we would simply be acting blindly – and we would not be helping them to grow in their relationship with God. If our answer is “no” – we must examine why. Are we simply acting out of anger, vengeance, and retaliation? If so, this wouldn’t help them to grow in their relationship with God, either. Nor would we be living our faith. So, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say “yes” – with conditions – Sorry Isn’t Enough. They must admit to the theft. They must demonstrate true repentance, not just say the words “I’m sorry.” One way they can do this is to come before you all, admit their wrong-doing, and express their sorrow for betraying our trust. They must acknowledge, without resentment, the fact that it may take some time to rebuild our trust. They must be willing to face whatever legal consequences that may arise from their actions. And they must apologize and make restitution to the pawn shop.

Closing Thoughts

Forgiveness is one-sided. As Christians, we freely offer forgiveness and, in so doing, we free ourselves from the hurt, anger, and vengeance. Reconciliation, on the other hand, requires both parties. And, in many, many cases, Sorry Isn’t Enough.

We, the offended, must be genuinely willing to rebuild or restore the relationship; and the offenders must be willing to take responsibility for their actions, as well as take the steps necessary to rebuild our trust – Sorry Isn’t Enough.

That being said – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Upon reflection and writing this message, in some ways, I have to say I’m thankful this situation has occurred. Remembering Romans 8:28, that God can use all things for good, this situation has provided us with the opportunity to more fully examine forgiveness and reconciliation. It has allowed us to examine our own motives. It has allowed us the opportunity to examine what Scripture has to say, and, how we can apply it in our lives. And, it is through this process we strengthen our own relationship with God; we more fully live as followers of Christ; and we more deeply allow for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture

  • Romans 12:17-21
  • Matthew 5:23-24
  • Luke 6:27-28
  • Ephesians 4:29-5:2
  • Romans 8:28
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

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We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!