How He Seeks Us
You have tried my heart, you have visited e by night, you have tested me. (Psalm 17:3)
Repeatedly in the Bible, we see men and women of God drawn into a deeper relationship with God through adversity. There’s no doubt that all the circumstances in the long delay of the birth of Isaac and then the experience of taking his only son up to the mountain to offer as a sacrifice brought Abraham into a much deeper relationship with God. The psalms are replete with expressions of ever-deepening knowledge of God as the psalmists seek Him in times of adversity, for example Psalm 23, 42, 61, 62.
You and I obviously do not seek out adversity just so we can develop a deeper relationship with God. Rather God, through adversity, seeks us out. It is God who draws us more and more into a deeper relationship with Him. If we’re seeking Him, it’s because He’s seeking us. One of the strong cords with which draws us into a more intimate, personal relationship with Him is adversity. If we’ll seek to cooperate with God, we’ll find that we’ll be drawn into a deeper relationship with Him. We’ll come to know Him as Abraham and Job and David and Paul came to know Him.
As we experience God’s seeking of us through adversity, sometimes we’ll be able to see how we are profiting from it, while at other times we’ll wonder what God is doing. One thing we may be sure of, however; for the believer, all pain has meaning; all adversity is profitable.
There’s no question that adversity is difficult. It usually takes us by surprise and seems to strike where we’re most vulnerable. It often appears completely senseless and irrational; but to God, none of it is either senseless or irrational. He has a purpose in every pain He brings or allows in our lives. We can be sure that in some way He intends it for our profit and His glory.
As we read the Bible and as we consider what we know of life, everyone is tested in some way and none seem to be able to escape adversity. Isaiah tells us that Christ Himself experienced adversity. I think sometimes when we read of His sufferings we categorize them in a special category. We seem to think that those adversities were not as painful or as difficult as ours. Even as we see others suffer, we often feel that we of all people are experiencing to most difficult adversities. The comfort we have as believers is that we have a Savior who is compassionate to us in our adversity. Even if He is allowing it to teach us or to train us, it is done with compassion. In Isaiah we read this:
“He was despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief; And like One from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him. But [in fact] He has borne our griefs, And He has carried our sorrows and pains; Yet we [ignorantly] assumed that He was stricken, Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated [by Him]. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]; The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him, And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, We have turned, each one, to his own way; But the Lord has caused the wickedness of us all [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing] To fall on Him [instead of us]. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth [to complain or defend Himself]; Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before her shearers, So He did not open His mouth. After oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation [His contemporaries], who [among them] concerned himself with the fact That He was cut off from the land of the living [by His death] For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke [of death] was due? His grave was assigned with the wicked, But He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. Yet the Lord was willing To crush Him, causing Him to suffer; If He would give Himself as a guilt offering [an atonement for sin], He shall see His [spiritual] offspring, He shall prolong His days, And the will (good pleasure) of the Lord shall succeed and prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He shall see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge [of what He has accomplished] the Righteous One, My Servant, shall justify the many [making them righteous—upright before God, in right standing with Him], For He shall bear [the responsibility for] their sins. Therefore, I will divide and give Him a portion with the great [kings and rulers], And He shall divide the spoils with the mighty, Because He [willingly] poured out His life to death, And was counted among the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore and took away the sin of many, And interceded [with the Father] for the transgressors.
If our adversity is that of being rejected by those we love then we have a Savior who has walked that path and invites us to come to Him.
28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”
When adversity brings sorrow and grief He invites us to receive His comfort and His grace.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
As we read this passage in Isaiah we see it describes an unspeakable adversity which our Lord experienced. Through it we see how the adversity brought about great blessings for us. The wounds for the forgiveness of our transgressions, the bruising for the forgiveness of our iniquities, the beatings for our peace and the stripes for our healing. Though God allowed His own Son to suffer adversity, He did so with a glorious purpose. Our adversity may never bring about such a ministry, but the same God who was with His Son in adversity is also with us in ours and He will work through us in our adversity to bring about His purposes for us and through us.
Nobody likes or looks forward to adversity with joy. As a matter of fact we seek to avoid it if at all possible. Yet it comes to all, believer and unbeliever. What we must know as believers is that adversity never comes as punishment for our sins for Christ bore those on the cross. We certainly know that Christ was sinless and yet He suffered adversity. We read of the great men and women in the Bible who were used of God and yet they too suffered adversity.
It is our response to adversity that is important for we can allow it to drive us away from God or draw us closer to God. I’ve observed that this is the case in the lives of believers over the years. I have seen those who experienced adversity draw deeper into God with greater trust and faith. Two of those is my oldest son and his wife. When they walked through the adversity of their son’s battle with the physical challenges and when God saw fit to bring him home, I was deeply concerned that they were going to become a statistic. I know something of their questions as we prayed diligently for healing for Titus and the season in which he was improving. As we watched his progress our hope grew within us and we could see the day when he was completely off the ventilator. But that was not to be. Instead we were called to say our goodbyes. A few days ago, I stood with them as they were ordained to the ministry and over the last several years following their loss, I’ve watched almost with amazement their deeper walk with God.
On the other have I’ve watched those in adversity who prayed for deliverance or help and when it didn’t come as they wished they just abandoned their faith. I remember one man in particular. He had been saved and was working in the church as a leader and a teacher. He began to experience some issues with his back. I have no doubt that it was painful and restrictive. Again and again he would ask to be anointed and prayed over. For some reason which I do not know, he never was healed. After some months, he gave up. He ceased to teach and stepped down from leadership. After a while he ceased coming to church. And after a little more time he became bitter toward God. Now his adversity didn’t cease, but he chose to allow it to draw him away from the only source of help, Christ the Lord.
If you’re in the midst of adversity, let me plead with you to draw deeper into God for God has said “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” I can’t promise you that your adversity will cease or that you will be removed from the trial but I can promise you that God will be with you and that as you turn your face toward Him you will experience more of His presence and grace.
Dr. John Thompson