One of the most deadly diseases throughout the course of human history is Smallpox. It’s estimated it was responsible for 300-500 million deaths during the 20th century. In 1796 Dr. Edward Jenner discovered it was possible to immunize a person by injecting him with a weakened form of a virus from the same family as Smallpox. This led to worldwide vaccination campaigns that resulted in the eradication of the disease. The lesson is sometimes something bad, such as a small form of a virus can lead to something good.
We have all experienced this principle at in our lives. A mother coaxes her child to eat something that tastes bad (vegetables) for the benefit it brings. Proper exercise tires muscles to the point of exhaustion, which feels bad, but is good for you. No pain, no gain, right?
At the same time our society places a high priority on doing things the easy and painless way. Ads proclaim, “Learn a language without tedious drills and memorization!” “Lose weight without diet or exercise!” Now that’s what we’re all looking for, right? Yeah, but we know those gimmicks don’t work or there’s something they aren’t telling us.
What about adversity? I think we’d all agree adversity, which is when something unfortunate or unfavorable happens to you, is bad. But is it always just bad or are there times when it leads good? This is an important question because in general people reject adversity. In fact there is a point of view in some Christian circles that suggests that God’s blessing on your life means things will always be good. That view suggests we reject anything bad that happens to us. That view is wrong.
Adversity is both good and bad. The Bible distinguishes 7 kinds of adversity and teaches us the proper response when we experience each kind.
7 Kinds of Adversity
- Consequential. Experiencing negative consequences from our actions. Galatians 6:7-8
- Discipline. God correcting and reproving us for something we did. Hebrews 12:5-12
- Persecution. Suffering physically, emotionally or financially for Christ. 2 Timothy 3:10-12
- Pruning. God removing things from our lives to make us more fruitful. John 15:1-5
- Tests. God directing events to prove our godly character. 1 Peter 1:6-7
- Trials. Daily difficulties and hardships from living in a fallen world. John 16:33
- Spiritual attacks. Satan 1 Peter 5:8, the world 1 John 2:15-17 and the flesh 1 Peter 2:11 attacking us to turn our hearts from God.
4 Key Observations
- All adversity is painful, which is bad.
- Five kinds are beneficial, which is good.
- Two should be avoided, which is bad.
- Even bad adversity can help us grow, which is good.
Over the next seven posts we are going to look at each kind of adversity to understand the purpose of the adversity and how to respond to it. If you reject good adversity you’ll miss God’s best! If you accept bad adversity you will needlessly suffer.
What kind of adversity are you experiencing today? How have you seen good come out of it? Please respond with a comment or suggestion below.