You’ve been following a path that has felt right to you for a long time and doors of opportunity have opened, confirming the rightness of your choices. But then, suddenly, like lightening in a storm, adversity strikes…challenges appear and doors slam shut in your face at almost every turn. Uncertainty and doubt emerge. Fear, too, and an uneasiness in your gut that keeps you up at night, interrupts sleep, and occupies your every waking moment of thought. You second guess your choices and wonder if the adversity means that your original choices were all wrong.
Ever been here? My guess is, this describes where some of you are right now. And, you’re wondering what insight there might be into this dilemma.
“What is it,” you ask, “I should do to face this adversity?”
Here are three important things to remember when facing adversity.
1. Do not stray from the course you’ve been following. You made these original decisions and took great risks because they felt authentic to you. In fact, they were the most authentic choices you had made in almost a lifetime. Do not go back now. Stay fixed on your vision of living true to your dreams. Your heart knows when you are being yourself…when you’re living by the beat of your own heart, values, and beliefs.
When you made these choices months ago, or maybe even years ago now, you did so because you felt God releasing you from a lifetime of living in a prison of phoniness. For the first time in your life you felt free from everyone else’s expectations, beliefs, and definitions of who you were supposed to be. You must remember these original decisions and choices that brought you to the place where you are today. And, even though things seem uncertain and you’re not sure what’s coming next, stay firmly fixed on the freedom you’ve been given, the authenticity you have known, and the person you have become.
2. Remind yourself that the doubts you’re having…the second-guessing is not your enemy. Do not resist the doubts. Embrace them instead. They’re part of the journey, too. I know this for I have, and still have from time to time, many doubts of my own. I still second-guess myself, too. I still question God. And, I know that doubt is not the opposite of faith and, therefore, its antithesis. Doubt is faith stretching its wings to take flight into a Presence ever higher and grander than you could ever imagine.
Faith and doubt are the flip sides of the same coin. So live into your doubts as an indication, not of weakness, but of growth. Doubts do not mean something is wrong with your faith. Contrary to the misinformed kind of conversation about faith you see and hear from the television preachers, faith isn’t something you and I acquire in quantities. They’re always saying nonsensical things like, “If you just have a little more faith, you would receive what you need.” If that were true, why do they spend so much of their time praying and praying more for money during their fund drives? Does God withhold the money they think they need until they’ve offered so many prayers or reached a certain threshold in the amount of faith they’re supposed to have? Does God wait to give them what they need until they have “enough” faith?
Jesus’ comments about “faith the size of a mustard seed” may be one of the most widely misunderstood metaphors to have even come from Jesus’ lips (Matt. 17:20). He was not speaking of quantity of faith with this image but the power of faith. Faith may seem against the mountain of adversity you’re facing as inconsequential…powerless. But, faith, even when its as a mustard seed has the capacity to move mountains. In other words, no mountain is anything more than a molehill when faith is present, even faith no bigger than a mustard seed. See the difference?
Faith is not a commodity you pick up like picking up a gallon of milk at the grocery. It is the way you live. Faith is waiting on God when the temptation is to take control of things and bulldozing the mountain yourself. Faith is forgiving yourself when you do take over because it’s hard to believe sometimes. Faith is accepting yourself and your doubts and letting go of self-judgment, knowing that God does not finally accept you when you’ve attained to some imaginary level of faith. God accepts you even when you doubt more than you believe. Faith is forgiving yourself and once again learning to wait on God.
3. There’s one more thing: During this time of barrenness…when the adversities are big…frightening…and many, know that the spring of new life is coming. It is. Watch for it. But have no expectations as to when it will show up. Grow through this by going inward daily and there remaining in the company of the Eternal.
If you will do this, you will find joy in the Presence and peace in the present. Doubts will be kept at bay, adversities and challenges will not be overwhelming, and God’s Presence will be to you as a fresh-water spring. It will quench your barren soul. I cannot stress more strongly the importance of returning to this inner place of nurture on a daily basis. Again, bring no expectations, just a watchful, open heart. Wait on God and see what happens. The writer of Proverbs put it like this:
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health and your very bones will vibrate with life!” (Prov. 3:5-6).