Monday, March 13, 2006

Adversity and Happiness

In the current issue of Psychology Today, there is an article, The Hidden Side of Happiness, which asserts the idea that adversity can actually contribute to happiness.

We love to hear the stories of people who have been transformed by their tribulations, perhaps because they testify to a bona fide psychological truth, one that sometimes gets lost amid endless reports of disaster: There is a built-in human capacity to flourish under the most difficult circumstances. Positive reactions to profoundly disturbing experiences are not limited to the toughest or the bravest. In fact, roughly half the people who struggle with adversity say that their lives have in some ways improved.

It's amazing to me that people are given millions of dollars in research money to prove truths that God has already shown us in the Bible. If I were a degreed psychologist, I would look for truths in the Bible and then apply for grant money to research one of the truths; it's a sure fire way of success!

God wrote lots about adversity in His Word. I wrote a Bible study several years ago, which I now entitle Living Well in Adversity. I have come to realize that most of the really godly people I know have been through some tough times. For some, it has been a physical problem. But for many, their adversity has been their own family relationships, either their parent(s) or spouse. The real difference in what happens in their life, as a result of the adversity, is their response in seeking answers and/or justification. Most people either blame God or praise God.

I have done both. The time I blamed God, I ended up depressed and in despair. I wasn't just mad at God, I was mad about my whole life. It wasn't turning out like I thought it should. I was miserable enough that I started looking for answers. Fortunately, I never turned my back on God. I was committed to find out His purpose and view on adversity and suffering. Was it punishment? Was He withholding the answers from me, leaving me to just guess what was in His mind? Did He care? What was the use being a Christian if we aren't protected from hard, painful situations?

After much study, I have decided that God is much more interested in the process of development in our lives, than in the end result. He already knows what that is going to be. But how are going to get there and how long will it take us? I believe He leaves those parts up to us.

I really believe that many people think that the road to happiness or joy is a road with no bumps or potholes. But the Bible seems to teach the opposite. The same article says:
Those who weather adversity well are living proof of one of the paradoxes of happiness: We need more than pleasure to live the best possible life. Our contemporary quest for happiness has shriveled to a hunt for bliss - a life protected from bad feelings, free from pain and confusion.

God's Word says:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

God says that we can consider it joy when we are going through a trial. And that if we stick with our faith, the end result is that we lack NOTHING. We will be complete.

But we face those times like they are going to ruin our lives. The reality is that if we keep our faith in God, we will be even better, stronger, more mature, than we were before went through it.

What if we had a different perspective, what if we said Okay, this really looks tough. I don't like pain. But I want to see all of what God has for me. I am willing to depend on Him and see what happens. How would it change our everyday joy of life? I think it would change a lot. I am not looking for adversity but I don't think I have to go to great lengths to avoid it either.