“Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head; And this our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.” – Shakespeare: As You Like It Act 2, scene 1, 12–17
In this scene, the duke is describing the predicament he finds himself in now that he’s been deposed and exiled by his villainous brother—this is the “adversity” for which he has found “sweet uses.” By “uses,” the duke means “profits.” Still the question remains: should we agree and find comfort in “sweet are the uses of adversity. ”
You are probably as confused by the idea of adversity being sweet as you are by Shakespeare. After all, no one likes adversity. Especially anybody who has experienced their fair share of it. When in school I had a learning disability. Others have heart problems; still others have lost their job or found a relationship they should have left unfound. Others have economic issues. So adversity is everywhere. Some of it was a result of bad decisions, some of it was out of our control. Some of it was a consequence of a mistake. Some of it lasted a short time, while other adversity lasted for a season or longer. None of it was sweet or a gift.
It is easy to buy into the notion that adversity has no silver lining, no benefits at all. Scripture, however, tells a different story. James 1:2-4 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
Adversity may be hard, but it is an important tool that God uses in that transformation process. Suffering is part of God’s process of making us like Christ. Whether we suffer from a disappointment, a frustration, or some other painful tragedy, we need to try to see this in the light of Romans 8:28-29. According to Romans 8:28, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” and according to Romans 8:29, this good purpose is “to become like his Son (Christ).”
If you look at adversity as a benefit, as a gift, it will bring you closer to God. I have talked with Christians who have faced heartbreak, surgeries and sufferings, depression and adversity. Yet they will pause for a moment and say, “in all these things, Jesus Christ has been loving and faithful. He’s proved himself capable of handling my problems. I have witnessed His grace and been changed by it and to it. Adversity has been the gift that brought me closer to Him.”
Does this mean that adversity is sweet or easy? Absolutely not. Adversity is painful. We can be the man Shakespeare says, “..is the most wretched of men who has never felt adversity” or we can see adversity as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with the Lord. In every trial, His goal is that we increase in our knowledge and understanding of His ways, and trust in His faithfulness and His plan for our lives.
- Do you view adversity as an obstacle or an opportunity for spiritual growth? Why do you see it this way?
- How has God worked in your life through adversities? What sins has He revealed? What lessons has He taught you? How has He trained you for service?