I write things, not because I have all the answers, or that I am living up to the standard that God has set before me, but because I must know the truth and I need to hear the truth. “What should be our attitude in adversity?” I say this because I need to hear it, because adversity comes home, eventually to every Christian’s doorstep, even mine. At these times it does no good to rant and rave and curse the day you were born; it’s at these times that we need understanding and wisdom to push forward for the Lord.
“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them;
In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them
all the days of old.” Isa 63:9
First of all, we are Christian and we recognize and accept that affliction is something we must take for granted. This is something that goes without saying, but in the midst of suffering we don’t want to think about all those lessons on how it is to be handled; we just want it to pass. The word of God takes note of the fact that the Lord’s people do suffer adversity and that their adversity is one with Him; it is under His eye. Unless Satan has some rightful claim on you due to some sin left uncovered, then nothing is wrong about it, it is the common experience of all of God’s children.
In this verse Israel is seen in the wilderness; what was the adversity of the Israelite’s here? They had many. Their life was a life of wilderness wandering and their trials were plenty.
To begin with they were shut out and separated from all that was going on in the world, what the world had, and what the world was doing. The things that the world was doing, and had, to give them pleasure and satisfaction was cut off from them. That form of suffering hit them square between the eyes and came home to them many times in the fact that they had left Egypt where those things were to be had in abundance. Their hearts would return there often, remembering “the onions and the garlic” and all the other things. They missed those things terribly and returned, in there minds, over and over again. “If only we could go back for a little while,” “I would die for a fresh cut onion right now.” Going back to Egypt in their minds became a pastime for them, a miserable form of recreation that only brought suffering. Egypt had a plan, a form, and regularity to it, something that could be counted on. In the desert you never knew what to expect from one day to the next; you didn’t even know if you would be alive much less be hungry or thirsty; it was completely unpredictable. It was all a life of trust and faith, and faith means adversity often enough. Adversity narrows down the options and creates dependence and opens up windows to see God’s fullness. This is the way it was for the Israelites. This is the way it is for the Lord’s people; He cuts you off, closes you in, narrows your focus; this is adversity; this is suffering when viewed against the world. The Lord’s people can not do or have what they please. It was a weaning process, a weaning away from the deceptions of the soul life and the world.
There are times like that in our lives, when we have been cut off, restricted to some path chosen for us to walk in, a path with no options but to trust and rest, or rebel. There are days when the dark clouds settle in so fast and we are caught completely off our guard and we wonder if we will survive much less have joy. All them things we’ve heard of great Christian moments seem so far out of reach for us now and we begin to wonder if the Lord is against us, why all this “straitness” and distress. This is not the bountifulness or graciousness of the Lord; God is not being good to me; this is not the kind of life that is at the center of all those sermons I have listened to all these years. The enemy is pressing the attack; Satan is laying siege to our hearts and mind. He wants the Lord to be our adversary. The whole story of our life with the Lord begins to take a nasty turn and we feel abandoned, His promise broken. We start to see the Lord as hard, the Christian life as hard. The whole thing is being twisted to present our Father as evil by Evil itself.
“In all their affliction He was afflicted…” So, what is the word saying? It is saying this. In all that adversity, straitness, narrowness, and suffering, the Lord was not against them. Whatever it may have looked like, the Lord was not against them. Well, if that is the case then we must look for another answer, there must be another explanation. If the Lord is not against us in all these adversities, what is the reason?
So, if the Lord is not against us in these things that cause us illness and hardship and mental anguish then He must be for us, and all those things are for our benefit and ultimate joy. The Lord knows us so well in the life of the soul and knows that we must be pressed, narrowed, and emptied so that we can be filled. The Lord is seeing beyond the circumstances to a richness that we are not yet able to comprehend.
I could go directly from here into the completion of part two of the letter on deception, because there is a link. I won’t do that, but I will say that that life in the soul, being desirous of those things that are attractive to the natural man is that ground which lays fertile for the seeds of deception. Our attempt to waylay God and rob Him of His goodness toward us by extricating ourselves from adversity is itself a deception and directs us away from the path which must be traveled toward a death which produces no fruit.
It would be easy to show that the Lord was for the Israelites every step of their journey through the wilderness, but you say “they rebelled and therefore He was turned to be their enemy.” They rebelled, that is the difference. We can have adversity and not rebel. God will not tolerate rebellion; He is the enemy of rebellion. But, even then, it is said of Him that “…He remembered….” Even when He had to be their adversary because of rebellion the end of the matter was that “he remembered,” Moses, “He remembered that we are dust.”
The Lord knows our soulish hearts and loves us. He knows that we must build a history of overcoming adversity, even if it takes forty years (or thirty three years in my case). He knows that we need to be trained to conquer difficulty, danger, and misfortune in the natural man so we can learn to walk in the hidden man, the man of the spirit. To walk in the spirit is to accept hardship and suffering and to live life on the other side of Jordan where we confidently follow the Captain of the Lords Host into Spiritual wars and bask in the victories of faithfulness and trust.
The final word, which is never really the final word, is this. For the majority of us, and especially me on this particular day, while our hearts are toward the Lord, and we find our way strait, troubled, pressing, closing in on us, demanding the soulishness of ourselves take action; when the way ahead is dark, the fog is thick, and the path is cut off before us, remember, the Lord is not against us; it means just the opposite. The Lord is in the process of enlarging our borders and preparing a feast in the presence of our enemies. The Lord is after much more than getting a better life here. What ever we gain here we gain nothing. So, if we pray for more of the Lord we must pass through narrow places, difficult places, and come to adversity, because the Lord is for us, not against us.
“In all their affliction He was afflicted…”