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“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10-13)
It has often been said that “adversity does not create character; it reveals it.” Going through difficult times is like a heavy truck going over a small bridge: it doesn’t cause cracks so much as it reveals where there are already weak spots.
I have mentioned in sermons how I never knew how much anger was in me until I had children. I had always considered myself to be a very easy-going, pleasant person that doesn’t get riled up easily. But I have found that a child that won’t stop crying, brothers who won’t stop bickering, or a son who gets destructive when he’s upset can all cause my blood to boil before I even know what has hit me. Before I know it, I am angry, yelling, and defensive when someone points out that I have lost control. The adversity has revealed that I am not as easy-going as I thought I was, and have much more sinful pride and anger than I ever knew.
We all have to walk through pressure-filled situations on a regular basis. Marriage and parenting are two realms of life that cause all kinds of adversity. Being in leadership, or having to work with difficult co-workers, can cause a great deal of stress. Struggling to pay the bills, or dealing with declining health, can also feel like a heavy truck going over the small bridge that is your life. And in those situations, we often have to face the worst about ourselves: our tendency to run from reality to find comfort in a favorite addiction; our anger and tendency to attack and blame others for our problems; or our fears and anxieties at facing the difficulties of life.
So how do we prepare ourselves for adversity?
First and foremost, we would be wise, as the pressure reveals the cracks in our character, to hear the gospel and recognize that our need for a Savior is greater than we ever knew. We can not be holy on our own; no amount of effort can overcome our natural tendencies towards pride, anger, controlling behavior, laziness, addiction, and so on. To paraphrase 12 step groups, we must admit that we are powerless to handle our sin. We must throw ourselves upon the mercy of our Lord, asking for His forgiveness and for His help in transforming our character. To quote 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Secondly, we need to be continually filled with the Spirit. We must spend the time daily in God’s presence, confessing our sin and worshiping Jesus, getting to know who our great God is and what it means to know Him and live for Him. As we let Him sanctify us, we will find that when the trials come, we will have a greater ability to withstand the pressure, because we are strengthened by His Spirit within us and are becoming more and more like Jesus in our attitudes and actions.
There is no escaping adversity in this world, and when the hard times hit, it is often too late to change who we are. Now is the time to cultivate the life of the Spirit. Now is the time to press in to God, so that when adversity comes, we can stand strong and weather the storm.
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