Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.
I was training for a sprint triathlon. The swim was a half mile, so I cut back my weekly swim to just two laps. The biking was 18 miles, so I would just train by cruising around the block a couple of times. The run was a 5k, so I would prepare by just going for a few strolls.
You see, I had decided that all of this pushing myself in training to stretch myself in order to get stronger and more fit is, well, backwards. The lighter the weight resistance, the less I would push my body, which would help me to become stronger and grow into peak physical condition.
What? You doubt all of this?
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction… (Isa. 30:20)
Did I read that right? The Lord gives the… “bread of adversity” and the… “water of affliction”? I think of bread as a good thing and water as a good thing, even necessary as sustenance. But where does this “adversity” and “affliction” fit in?
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
Okay, I like that better: the bread of “life” instead of bread of “adversity” and “living” water instead of water of “affliction”. Forget that other stuff. It sounds… harder.
But isn’t it true that adversity and affliction can actually give us incredible sustenance? Spiritual sustenance? If bread and water are necessary for our physical bodies to grow, isn’t it fair to say that adversity and affliction are necessary for our spiritual lives to grow?
I’m not a Christian masochist, and I don’t promote looking for suffering, but there is no doubt that my richest periods of spiritual growth have come through adversity and affliction. No doubt! I might go so far as to say that the growth rate doubled, tripled, or increased even higher during those times in my life.
Of course, this is intuitively true in other areas of life. The team won’t really improve if we’re only scrimmaging weaker teams. Your tennis game won’t improve against weaker opponents. Lifting light weights won’t exactly strengthen those muscles very much.
And so it is with our spiritual growth. It is difficult to grow when life is good. Yes, it can be done, but it’s often slow going. The real growth comes when adversity and affliction challenge our spiritual comfort level, daring us to go deeper.
We see human relationships strengthened when people face trials and struggles together. A bond is forged through that adversity which we know will be a strong one, a lasting bond. It’s no different with Jesus. When we step into adversity with Jesus at our side—at times, leading the way, carrying us, or pushing us from behind—we will always deepen our bond with Him.
And looking back, we’ll say, “I didn’t like that, and I hope to never have to repeat it. It was hard, and it was painful. But, without it, I simply could not have gotten to the place where I am now in my journey with the Lord. So, thank you, Father, for allowing that trial to come into my life.”
So, thank you to my trials and a big thank you to you, adversity, and to you, affliction. I appreciate you blowing out the fog and helping me to see more of the light in my otherwise dimly lit world.