By Johnnie C. Godwin
Contributing columnist, B&R
We live in a world of “adversity.” The word “adversity” came into English by 1340 to mean “turned against.” A dictionary definition defines the word as “a state, condition, or instance of serious or continued difficulty — or adverse fortune.” (Merriam-Webster, Collegiate, 11th edition).
My own definition would be that it is anything that bothers or hurts you or your family, church, or society. I don’t need to give examples of adversity; rather, it’s enough just to mention COVID-19. So I’ll share with you some actual vignettes of adversity. And in all instances of this condition, I would point you to Christ. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (see John 16:33, KJV).
Sources of adversity? When I was a young pastor in Texas, one of our older deacons looked like he was mad at me during every sermon I preached. But when he and I were alone, he was friendly and even gave us a pot roast one time. During one business meeting, I learned the deacon wasn’t mad at me.
I was urging the church to increase its mission giving. The older deacon spoke up with anguish, “I’m not going to vote in favor of giving another dollar to missions until we get these pews padded and cushioned!” I learned then that he had arthritis. So, I try not to be too quick to judge sources of adversity in others.
Facing adversity at age 7. In the second grade choir, the music teacher arranged for us to sing at a local civic club. She gave us a dress code note to take home which noted that all boys were to wear white pants. The note said she had gotten a local store to order white pants that would cost only $3.
The Depression was still on in our family. We did not have money for anything other than the essentials. My dad informed me I would need to get a job and earn the money. At the age of 7? It was then that I first faced adversity. I went to the local grocery stores to find a job but to no avail.
A school friend sold newspapers on the streets, and he suggested I could too if I got at the back of the line after school when papers came out. The boss started me off with 10 newspapers, to sell at 5 cents each. I would get to keep half of the nickel. Adversity solved! I got the pants and paid for them over time.
After I had bought my pants, I kept selling newspapers for five years. The last two years, I earned the award for selling the most newspapers daily on the streets of Midland, Texas. By then I was up to $5 in weekly sales. My mother explained to me about tithing so I gladly parted with 50 cents a week. The income increased, but I kept the percentage of giving all of my life.
Adversity can lead to creativity and ingenuity. One day, a West Texas sandstorm turned day into night just as papers came off the press. All the other boys went home. But I had a quarter in my pocket and bought a cheap pair of plastic goggles at a store to protect my eyes from the sand. I had all the streets of Midland to myself — no competition.
From age 7 on, I paid my own way in buying things I needed. I had jobs from being a soda jerk to delivering dry cleaning to future President George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. But university tuition would later become an adversity for me, as I married Phyllis as she finished high school and I finished my freshman year of college (earned via a Rotary scholarship).
At age 15, I had felt God’s call to preach. When Phyllis was 16, and we met, I had prayed for a wife who would qualify as a pastor’s wife. I learned Phyllis was qualified and that God had sent her to me. I write this after 65 years of marriage and family that now has given us 13 great grandchildren. I went from the pastorate to being an editor and a publishing career with Lifeway Christian Resources that spanned 22 years before I was downsized and retired. But retirement led to other work such as contract publishing, interim pastorates and writing more than a million published words (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Between my calling and now, I don’t have space to tell you about all of life’s adversities. But I can put it in a nutshell by telling you God’s calling has been what I call “God’s amazing maze of grace.” Instead of closed and open doors or windows, God has guided us in all of life as we’ve tried to say yes to His every calling. He has always been faithful and still is!
Conclusion. I can’t brag on myself. But I can boast about God’s amazing maze and untold blessings that revealed each challenge was like the apostle Paul’s: namely, a thorn in the flesh that God’s grace used to humble us and to cause us to depend on Him.
May you find grace and strength to deal with every adversity you face in life. And if you are a Christian — or become one — may you discover that the challenges and hurts of adversity may be God’s will calling you to answer “yes” to Him in all of life. B&R — Copyright 2021 by Johnnie C. Godwin; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.