The Benefits of Adversity and Affliction

In his interesting book, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt lays out a hypothetical exercise…

Imagine that you have a child, and for five minutes you’re given a script of what will be that child’s life. You get an eraser. You can edit it. You can take out whatever you want.

You read that your child will have a learning disability in grade school. Reading, which comes easily for some kids, will be laborious for yours.

In high school, your kid will make a great circle of friends; then one of them will die of cancer.

After high school this child will actually get into the college they wanted to attend. While there, there will be a car crash, and your child will lose a leg and go through a difficult depression.

A few years later, your child will get a great job—then lose that job in an economic downturn.

Your child will get married, but then go through the grief of separation.

You get this script for your child’s life and have five minutes to edit it.

What would you erase?

Wouldn’t you want to take out all the stuff that would cause them pain?

I think that every parent understands the desire to take away the hard parts of their child’s life, but a wise parent knows that it is in and through those difficult seasons of life that their kids (young or old) learn some incredibly valuable lessons. Lessons that can’t be learned any other way.

God is presented in Scripture as our Father who loves us and is sovereign over all things including our lives. Because he is sovereign he controls all things even the hardships and trials we go through. Because he is wise he doesn’t erase them. He knows that some of the most important things we learn in life are in and through difficult seasons.

The Advantages Of Adversity and Affliction (with help from John Newton)

1. Adversity and affliction teach me to pray because they show me my great need and my inability to meet that need.

2. Adversity and affliction teach me to not seek comfort and rest in this world. When everything is going well, I find in myself a greater desire for this life and a lesser desire for the life to come with Christ. Had the Israelites prospered in Egypt instead of being enslaved, they would probably have never set out for the Promised Land. Pain, sickness, disappointments, and hardships weaken my attachment to this world and make me long to be with Jesus in heaven.

3. Adversity and affliction teach me that I cannot live on bread alone but only by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Unfortunately, prosperity makes me self reliant but seasons of difficulty make me aware of how much I need the Bible for the hope, comfort, and wisdom that only God can give.

4. Adversity and affliction teach me that I need others. I need others to pray for me and encourage me and help on a very practical level. That’s always true but it’s easy to ignore or forget when life is going well. But in a difficult season I can’t escape my need to be in community with other people.

5. Adversity and affliction help me to grow in Christ-likeness. We follow a Savior who knew the disappointment of having his friends deny and abandon him, who knew the pain of being betrayed, who heard his Father say no to his prayer requests, who was unjustly accused, who was turned on by his own family, and who “learned obedience through suffering”. If we are to be conformed to his image, then we will need to experience the hardships of life.


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