Monday, May 18, 2009

Old Lessons, New Time.

As the one who sort of invented (or stole from an obscure source) the phrase ‘lifebites’ one might think I’ve learned how to deal with those biting circumstances? Nope, reality bites! I’m still learning and none too patient at it! Over time all of us are forced to face adversity, but adversity can’t force us to learn. It does, however, force us to choose.

We are facing war, a world in turmoil, transition in governments and financial markets, family issues and the lonely, personal struggles that these pressures exacerbate in all of us. The ripple affect of our crumbling economy has touched all of us in some way. Two members of my own family are out of work. Three close friends have either lost their jobs or had their hours cut in half. Being in the Church world, I hear of the struggles many congregations are facing all over the state. Budgets slashed and staff sizes greatly reduced. Those who are left are now being asked to do more for the same pay or less. That’s just in my world. Last week, Chrysler notified 789 dealers that they would not have their dealer agreements renewed. General Motors proposes to close about 1100 of their dealers this week!

I know you could share similar stories. What to do? How are we to face these realities, and more to the point, what does adversity teach us? Actually, better put, what does adversity force upon us? What I have discovered is of course not a discovery at all. In adversity, we learn old lessons for new times.

1. Adversity forces us to focus. Instead of concentrating on all kinds of non-essentials and ancillary issues, adversity tends to draw my focus to necessities, like relationships, people, family, faith, serving, rest and hard work.

2. Adversity forces the discovery of new solutions instead of putting up with the same old ones. Responding to adversity often proves that people can be more creative when they have to do so. History is replete with examples of how new products were developed by “mistake.” Adversity is the inventor behind many new techniques and products.

3. Adversity forces new alliances. Mergers, acquisitions and new market place niches are exposed by the forces of adversity. New opportunities pop up for the next entrepreneur, inventor, or leader.

4. Adversity forces the discovery of hidden or underutilized talent. Every sports franchise has this opportunity when their superstar athlete develops tendinitis or blows up his knee. Someone who was warming the bench takes the team to the Superbowl.

5. Adversity breaks old habits and tired traditions. Old habits and tired traditions come from the lack of challenge to our current ways of doing things. Adversity makes me accountable for how I do what I do, and why I do what I do all over again!

6. Adversity forces greater accuracy. When bullets are less expensive people waste more ammo! Now, when ammo is expensive, we are forced to shoot less, aim more carefully! In target sports, as in life, we tend to get more accurate when the ‘cost’ of our actions increases.

7. Adversity forces new efficiencies. When we have to do better, we can do better. Adversity forces us to pay attention to the interplay between effectiveness and efficiency. When trouble comes, and costs increase, new levels of quality or performance are required. If effectiveness is doing the job well, then efficiency is doing the job with less waste and friction. Adversity brings these cousins together again.

8.Adversity increases resilience and reduces the whining! Those who endured the years of WWII learned that adversity made them sterner stuff. World wide adversity and carnage, though wicked and far reaching, created more resilient people who were willing to sacrifice, held simple things in high esteem again, and stopped complaining because it just made matters worse! People knew they were blessed if they were alive, had food, a roof and family or a few true friends, they had all they needed.

9.Finally, adversity forces believers to face weak faith. This is the big one for me. To be frank, adversity sucks! It's oftentimes just destructive. In an imperfect world, with greedy people, scared people, broken people and broken systems – things are going to break. Things are going to erode, leading one to think that a bad end is the only end we can expect. Greed and sin wreak havoc on humanity.

So what now? All of the above are old lessens for new times. Is life not ultimately a battle? Especially for the believer, is adversity not a cosmic test of enormous proportions between God and Satan that will finally prove to any and all, that the True One will hold on to His own? In the end will it not be adversity that proves the faithful will find strength in their Creator to persevere? One day God will have all the evidence needed for the courts of Heaven to prove once and for all that the Righteous One is I AM!

The Bible meets that challenge in simple, clear language: “...when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4

Adversity can be the tool of God to help us clean up spiritual waste. It can teach us to move our faith back into first position. Isn't our handling of adversity really a question of reliance? Doesn't adversity show us at whose feet our trust really lays? Doesn't adversity realign us in prayer with the God of heaven, by showing us that we need solutions from His heaven? Can't adversity renew the importance of the relationships and reinstate the importance of one-another care? One of my old friends (ironically, who is no longer part of my community because of adversity!) used to say, when someone acknowledged the need for prayer, “Has it really come to that?" Today, as I acknowledge the presence of adversity that tests my own faith, I'm confronted with a to similar question: "Trust God completely? Has it truly come to that?!"