Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:20-21
Adversity and affliction — yuck. Those two words are loaded with thoughts of difficulty and suffering. And yet, they perfectly sum up a lot of what we experience as humans living in a fallen and imperfect world.
It’s not just a condition that humans face either. The earth itself suffers. The plants and trees, and insects and animals all experience pollution, disease and destruction. As we’ve heard so much these last eighteen months, “We’re all in this together.”
I can only speak from a human standpoint, but what I’ve learned in my (over) half-century of life, is that adversity and affliction are some of the best teachers. I’ve learned more from my awful experiences than I have from the beautiful ones. The awful ones are on a whole different level — it’s like earning a Ph.D in “what not to repeat.”
In that way, they become sustaining. Just like the bread and water served to ancient prisoners, it’s meant to keep you alive but uncomfortable and wanting more. It makes you realize (hopefully) that there’s a better, future way of life for you. A life of flavor, adventure, and fullness.
In his great mercy and kindness, God wants this for all of us. He wants us to know and hear him. To listen to his voice, do the right thing, and learn our lesson the first time. Mark my words, he is a good and faithful parent. If you don’t get it right, he’ll teach you over and over again until you do.
I find that one of the most amazing things about him is that in spite of our imperfection and sin, he still wants to be with us. In his kindness and mercy, he walks behind us as a protective measure and guides us in the right way. How wonderful is that?
Another amazing thing is that once we’ve gone through times of difficulty, we become teachers to others. Some will be diligent pupils and take us at our word, and some will not. But no matter what, our experience allows us to be a guide and comforter to the suffering.
What about you? What life sustaining lesson has God taught you and how have you used it to help others?