There are few interruptions in life more disconcerting than those we call “adversities.” Life is a daily challenge without additional impediments! The negative surprises which invade our daily routine bring their measure of frustration, dejection, and defeat. They require more energy, an alternate plan, and refuse to follow our original schedule. Sometimes, they even delete our best intended plans and purposes…. Can adversities ever serve a useful purpose—ever offer us a gift?

Like wrestling with an angel to secure a blessing, our struggle with adversity may eventually provide us a gift or two. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Adversity can provide us an opportunity to assess how important a given goal or purpose really is. When challenge and interruption “stop us in our tracks,” it may afford us a chance to affirm (or confirm) that our initial purpose is not only valid—but significant for us—and we resolve not to abandon it—but to give it more energy and commitment. (When Jacob discovers after seven years of working for Rachel, that he was given Leah, his love and determination enable him to work seven more years—for what he really loved). Stephen Joseph reminds us of such compelling discoveries in his What Doesn’t Kill Us.
  2. Interruption as adversity offer us an acquaintance with our capacity to endure, or what some folks call resilience. Psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal describes the unintended discovery of stamina and capacity for adaptation that some people encounter in the face of unexpected and uninvited difficulties. He suggests that all of us possess untapped resources available for unprogrammed emergencies we face (The Gift of Adversity).
  3. Adversity becomes an equipping friend when it also affords us a serious engagement with our courage and commitment to particular causes or goals. In Some Nerve, Patty Chang Anker writes that we human beings may go half a lifetime (my words) before we experience the necessity of “pushing ourselves” and discovering the hidden bravery within us—which can provide confidence in the face of significant distractions.
  4. Jesus Christ himself did some of his best work in the midst of interruptions, and adversities. May God provide for you as well.