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Adversity can be defined as the trials that afflict all of us. Adversity is ongoing in some degree or another. It can come from the effects of ill health, accidents, loss of loved ones or property, injury, natural disasters, civil unrest or war, oppression, poor decisions, our own actions, or the actions of others. Adversity is amplified by spiritual or psychological confusion, anger, or self-pity. How a person deals with adversity shapes his or her life and character.
- “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness, nor misery, neither good, nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
- “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (2 Nephi 2:11, 16).
Opposition in all things is necessary for our growth. Without it, we could not understand or appreciate joy in contrast to sorrow, or righteousness in contrast to wickedness.
The scriptures teach us that opposition in all things is an eternal truth. If we can understand that adversity can be for our eternal good, then adversity can become an opportunity instead of a stumbling block. Although most of us hope for a life free of adversity, perhaps we should be viewing life as a time to prove ourselves worthy of inheriting the kingdom of God, which is also called “entering into His rest.”
In Doctrine and Covenants 122:7 it says,
- “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
This was the Lord’s answer to the pleadings of Joseph Smith, who had been cast into prison ─ into the most awful conditions ─ while the members of the LDS Church were being driven by force from Missouri in the midst of winter. None of us would want to go through the sorts of adversity listed by the Lord, but the Lord has an eternal perspective and knows that earthly adversity lasts but a moment compared to eternity, and that it serves a great purpose.
We are here on earth, living our mortal lives, in order to become like our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. We agreed to the test of mortality in the premortal life. We need this experience in order to grow. In our trials we learn how to help others by applying the lessons we learn, even as Christ did in suffering the ultimate sacrifice (see Alma 7:11-12).
In Doctrine and Covenants 136:31 it says, “My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.” Adversity can lead us toward God, rather than away from Him, if we react to adversity in humility and prayer. Privation can prove to be a source of strength, if we can but keep a sweetness of mind and spirit (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953], 390).
Lord Byron said, “Adversity is the first path to truth” (Don Juan, canto 12, stanza 50). The life of the Savior and the lives of His prophets clearly and simply teach how necessary adversity is to achieve a measure of greatness (James E. Faust, “The Blessings of Adversity,” Liahona, May 1998, 3.)
How can we gain a better perspective on adversity and learn to appreciate its role in our life so that we can grow from our experiences? We need to understand the following:
- 1. Adversity is a universal experience.
- a. We all face adversity—Without adversity we may forget God (see Helaman 12:2-3).
- b. No one person has a monopoly on adversity—we are all in this together.
- c. Adversity can lead to good—Learning to overcome adversity is part of life. It will be for our good (see D&C 98:1-3)
- d. Face adversity with courage—To wish away adversity will only make you weak. The results will be little or no growth.
- e. The key is to rise above adversity—Great souls are those who handle adversity positively, maintain a good attitude, and have a proper perspective on life.
- f. Trust in God. Adversity teaches us to trust in the Lord (see Proverbs 3:5-6).
- g. The Lord chastens those He loves—We are chastened in adversity (see 2 Nephi 5:25; Mosiah 23:21) and then blessed as we grow from it (see Mosiah 24:8-15).
- 2. You already have access to effective tools for overcoming adversity.
- a. Faith in Jesus Christ—Heavenly Father has given each of us abilities that we can utilize. As we exercise our faith in Jesus Christ we will receive the strength to overcome our adversity (see 1 Nephi 7:17).
- b. The Word of God—There is power in the word (see Alma 31:5). It will tell us all things that we should do (see 2 Nephi 32:3).
- c. The Spirit—The Holy Ghost will guide us in all things (see 2 Nephi 32:5) and comfort us as well (see John 14:16).
- d. Prayer—The scriptures teach us clearly that if we but ask, the Lord will help us (see James 1:5-6; Mosiah 27:14; Alma 13:28).
- e. Hope—When you are full of hope, knowing that in the end all things shall work together for your good, you can endure and transcend adversity (see D&C 122:7).
- f. Patience—As we exercise patience, time will become our ally. It is a righteous response to adversity (see Alma 26:27). The process of overcoming was never meant to be easy or a quick fix but rather a process of becoming (see D&C 24:8).
- g. People—Family, friends, associates, and/or even caring strangers are there to lend support (see D&C 108:7).
- h. Positive Response—We have moral agency. We can choose to face it positively in the strength of the Lord or allow it to destroy us.
- 3. There are great benefits that come through adversity.
- a. Humility—Adversity cultivates within you humility—knowing our relationship and dependence upon God—which is the beginning virtue of exaltation.
- b. Self-Worth—Overcoming adversity brings great personal satisfaction and a sense of self-worth and self-confidence.
- c. Strength—Overcoming adversity brings to you an enduring kind of spiritual strength.
- d. Gratitude—Adversity is the teacher that helps you remember the good times and the blessings of God.
- e. Spirituality—From adversity we can become closer to God, knowing that He not only gives us the strength to overcome but provides blessings in the process.
- f. Blessings from the Lord—The Savior continually nurtures us and strengthens us in our adversity and afflictions (see Alma 7:11-12).
Quotes about adversity:
- “In the fiery furnace of adversity are forged the greatest of men and women.” —Ed J. Pinegar
- “By serving, we can forget our problems and enhance our capacity to cope with adversity.” —Ed J. Pinegar
- “Adversity is a cousin to opposition. It is to temper us, not consume us.” —Ed J. Pinegar
- “In adversity, time is a great healer.” —Ed J. Pinegar
- “The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way you use them.” —Anonymous
- “Every adversity, envy, failure, every heartache comes with the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” —Napoleon Hill
- Adapted from What We Need to Know and Do, by Ed Pinegar and Richard J. Allen