Christian Disciples Learn to Face Adversity

May 17, 2013 — 4 Comments

Second Mile Logo without nameIt’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Epitetus


There is a wonderful scene in the hit 1991 movie City Slickers. The three friends who always went on vacation together were on a cattle drive. They decided to share their best and worst days ever. Ed, who definitely had problems with relationships, told about his best day. He was 15 years old when his mother caught his father cheating on her again. It was at that point Ed realized his father had really been cheating on the whole family. Confronting his father, Ed said, “You’re not good to us.” The man cocked his arm, preparing to hit Ed, but then hesitated; he then backed away and left, never to return. Ed went on to explain, “But from that day forward, I took care of my mother and my sister. That was my best Day.” When his friends asked him about his worst day, he thought for a moment then answered, “Same day.” 

This scene is a great reminder that it’s often the problems we face in life that make us stronger. Moreover, Epitetus was right. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Knowing this doesn’t always make it any easier to deal with difficulties at the moment we are facing them. But it does help us answer one of the most frequently asked theological questions, “Why do bad things happen to good people.” This awareness can also help us accept our struggles without becoming bitter, angry, or resentful.  

How we react to problems can make us or break us. It can make us better or it can make us bitter. How we deal with difficulties in life is a prime indicator of our Christian maturity.  

I love the story of Paul and Silas at Philippi as recorded in the 16th chapter of Acts. They were arrested for having cast a demon out of a slave girl; in other words, for doing something good for another person. The evangelists were stripped of their clothes and severely beaten with a rod. They were then thrown into the innermost cell of a prison and placed in stocks.  

I don’t know how you would have responded to this injustice, but I probably would not have handled the situation well. I likely would have sat there in fear, feeling sorry for myself. But what did Paul and Silas do? They were praying and singing, no doubt praising God! And what happened? “All at once there was such a violent earthquake that it shook the prison’s foundations. The doors flew open and everyone’s chains came loose.” 

The jailer awoke, and seeing the doors opened he was about to kill himself. (Under Roman Law the jailer would have been charged with any crime committed by a prisoner he allowed to escape.) The evangelists cried out, “Don’t harm yourself! We’re all here.” At this the jailer was so amazed he brought them out of their cell, fell at their feet, and cried, “Noble lords, what must I do to be rescued (saved)?”

This jailer had observed how Paul and Silas had dealt with injustice from the very beginning. He didn’t understand what empowered them to respond in such a remarkable way, but he wanted what they had. “It’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you respond to what happens.”

QUESTION: Are you growing in Christian maturity? How well do you handle adversity? What are some lessons about adversity you could share with the rest of us? Please respond in the Comments section below.


Dr. Gary Thompson


I am a retired United Methodist pastor. I write adult curriculum for the United Methodist Church and have been doing so for over 10 years. My passion is helping the Christian Church more effectively fulfill its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ and to help individuals identify and fulfill their God-given personal mission.

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