How to Survive in the Furnace of Adversity

The darkness in my bedroom seemed to reflect the despair that pervaded my heart. As I lay bedridden, I couldn’t find any position that brought comfort or an end to the constant and searing sciatic pain that radiated down my right leg into my foot, interrupting my sleep. How much longer can I survive this? I tried every recommended treatment, even surgery, but that only made my condition worse. I felt like I was being tested beyond my limits.

But God’s Word stood firm, and I saw the truth of Psalm 119:50: “This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me.” When I felt like my fingers were slipping from hope, God spoke to me through His Word and strengthened me.

You may not be suffering from chronic pain, but you may be experiencing some other kind of “affliction,” such as a relationship that is emotionally debilitating or a job situation that is painful and stealing your joy. Life is filled with “affliction opportunities” intended to make us cling to God and grow stronger in Him. No matter what adversity may come our way, God’s Word is the only anchor that will hold us strong as waves of difficulty bash against us.

The Scripture foundation that held me firm when I wondered if I’d ever move or walk without pain and medication was 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Throughout my journey of intense pain, it did not fail.

When I first noticed 2 Corinthians 10:5, I envisioned a “thought” as if it were an arrow flying toward my mind. I grasped it and evaluated it by asking, “Is this true according to God’s Word or is it Satan’s lie?” I “took it captive” by receiving truth and casting away falsehoods.

When I moaned, I can’t do this anymore, I mentally grabbed the thought and asked, “Is that the truth?” Asking myself what God says about it, I reflected on Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” God didn’t want me to depend upon my own strength, but upon Him. Therefore, I refused to entertain a lie. Instead, I asked for God’s power, and He lifted me up when I was down, often in creative ways.

Pain sometimes convinced me that God didn’t care that I was suffering. Again, I faced the idea and identified it as one of Satan’s lies because 1 Peter 5:7 told me the truth: “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” When I worried I would be in pain for the rest of my life, I cast away the falsehood that God didn’t care, and I dug the anchor into my heart that God still truly loved me.

Since I was shut away in my bedroom and seldom went out, I often wondered, Why should I go through this? How can God use me now? I rejected that arrow of purposelessness because 1 Peter 5:10 promises, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” I may have thought God wasn’t using me, but God’s work isn’t only about representing Him, but also about being transformed. Sanctification most often results from suffering, and I could trust His ability to work in me however He thought best.

Day after wearying day, I was tempted to conclude, I don’t know how to persevere. But I grasped that arrow of thought and refused it, comparing it against the truth of 1 Corinthians 2:16, “But we have the mind of Christ.” Since I was walking down an unfamiliar path, I couldn’t rely on my own wisdom. God guided me, no sooner than needed, and never too late; even to the extent of surrender if God wanted me to be in pain for the rest of my life.

It turns out that wasn’t God’s intention. A cyst of blood and water had formed on my nerve after my surgery. And as it dissipated, my pain subsided. After walking down the dark road of pain for 10 months, I am more convinced than ever that God’s Word is my solid anchor. Warren Wiersbe once wrote, “When God puts His children in the furnace of adversity, His loving hand knows how long and how much. He keeps His eye on the thermostat, and His hand on the dial.”

I’ve lived out that idea. Now that my pain is almost completely gone, I’m able to say with the Psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

While I was being challenged, it wasn’t easy to consider my circumstances “good,” and I didn’t go through my journey perfectly. I wish I could have had more joy and trust in God, but I also know that much of the “good” I experienced bolstered my confidence that God’s Word holds me firm. In whatever way I may be afflicted in the future, I’ll be even stronger in taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Scripture quotations are taken by permission from the New American Standard Bible, (c)1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.