Brick of Adversity
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, our house church in Southern California established a partnership with Pastor Sherman to help rebuild his church in New Orleans. One night I had a dream:
I’m telling Pastor Sherman how impressed we are by their progress in the midst of such chaos and destruction. He turns and looks me in the eye. “You realize don’t you—the most important thing is not to run from difficulty but to embrace it!” Suddenly we are standing on a huge pile of bricks and rubble. Pastor Sherman begins digging through the pile, pulling out bricks one by one– each with a name like Perseverance, Vision, Wisdom, Faith—and tossing them aside.
“I must find the one brick needed to rebuild the church,” he explains, digging deeper in the pile. Finally, he reaches down to the very bottom and pulls up the brick he’s been looking for. It is larger and heavier than the rest. Beaming, he turns and holds it up with both hands for me to see. I am so shocked that I awaken with a jolt.
The name emblazoned on the brick? ADVERSITY.
This is not the brick I was expecting. In fact, it is the exact opposite of the thing I thought God would provide for the restoration of His church! Can it be a mistake?
Friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead rejoice as you share in the suffering of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.
Rejoice in our adversity? Embrace the fellowship of His sufferings? This is crazy theology, right? Especially for those who have bought into the subtle notion pervading the American church that suggests our lives ought to be trouble free. And if they are not, then there is something wrong—wrong with our faith, wrong with our God, or wrong with us.
But this is not the view of our heavenly Father. I am learning – slowly—that He is teaching us to embrace our sufferings, to engage our adversity, not in a spirit of despair but in the hope of His great promise to use our trials to liberate us to the fullness of His resurrection life. In fact, our adversities are, as one writer says, the diamond dust with which heaven polishes its jewels. They are the very thing God is using to rebuild us into the likeness of Christ, so that by sharing in His sufferings, we may also partake of His glory!
How do you understand the role of suffering in your life? How do you respond to God’s invitation to embrace your “brick of adversity” with new understanding?