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Just dropping by ... To glory in adversity

Published on 06 November 2019

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartbreak carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
— Napoleon Hill

I have followed the thread of adversity through my life and find Napoleon Hill was right. My greatest adversities have brought my greatest blessings. When I was 3, I was burned severely with hot soup and was confined to my bed for six months. I had to learn to walk again. The prayers that were said at my bedside by grieving parents gave me a sure knowledge God hears and answers prayer. I learned to conquer pain. Back then painkillers were not the first answer to every wound. I learned that persistence is powerful. Of course, I could not articulate those lessons back then, and I don’t think my mother or father ever spelled them out to me, but they were planted in my heart. I intuitively became more compassionate to people’s suffering. I even wondered if plants and inanimate objects felt pain.

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When I was in my teens, I had an unbearable shyness. I was embarrassed to speak up in class or even have an opinion. I didn’t always follow the crowd, but I was never vocal about it. I did my own thing. This shyness gave me the solitude to ponder life. I began writing, and that has been such a treasure. It is my go-to when depression starts to creep in. It is my go-to when I want to bless someone’s life. I have written poems for funerals and birthdays and have seen the tearful smiles of those who have received my gift. I have overcome my shyness and now am able to reach with a compassionate hand to those who do not believe in themselves and let them know, “God’s love is sufficient” to overcome any weakness.

I wasn’t married until I was in my late 30s. There were many days and nights of tears and questioning, but as I trace back over the years, I find if I had married at a younger age, I would not have had time to learn the deep lessons of life and to travel, study and serve in places I would never have done if Prince Charming had come too soon.

I was not able to have my own children. I wept and petitioned heaven, but the answer was always, no. I hoped and dreamed until it was too late. God did not leave me without solace. I was able to marry a man with children, and we adopted older children in need. I loved them like my own, and I took a journey not many mothers take. I learned about the needs of children who feel broken and hurt in a way many will never understand.

As I sat in the autumn of my life, I watched my mother suffer through the devastating disease of dementia. I have had cause to wonder what possible benefit would she receive for her suffering?

It started with the macular degeneration, then the tinnitus. She became legally blind and could not hear. She could no longer do the things she loved to do. That was bad enough, but her mind began to decay. She told strange stories that at first seemed plausible then turned to outlandish. She said, “They have bred the young heifers to buffalo, and now we have lost almost all our cattle.” She imagined her brother blew up his water well and the parts went high into the sky and came down and ruined his new pickup so they put him in jail. She felt illusionary fires and poured water all over the carpet and furniture in the house to put them out. Of course, there was no fire. A flood was her next hallucinatory disaster. She could feel the water bubbling through her house and was distressed no one came to help. She imagined children and babies that mothers left in her care. She even claimed she had new babies and insisted we care for them. Her mind disintegrated gradually until she became non-verbal and so weak. She had to be helped with all her tasks. She would sit in her chair – day and night – afraid to go to bed.

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One night I lay on the couch watching her shadow figure in the dim light. This woman who had raised six children, made quilts, took care of her neighbors, built fence and been a midwife to a herd of cattle, is a giant of a woman. She had braved all my adversities and those of my brothers and sisters. Towards the end, she sat there in the darkness slumped in her chair, only a shell of the human being she once was. What possibly could be the benefit of that?

The answer came when her adversity was virtually over. Though she suffered the last few years of her life, she would go into the arms of the Savior and would never suffer again. I realized the suffering was for me. There were lessons I needed to learn. I prayed she would be released from her suffering. I wanted the Lord to take her home, not for my sake, but for hers.

I wondered why the Lord was silent and didn’t give me the desire of my heart.

The answer came as I read the scriptures. When Paul in the Bible said, “Charity suffereth long and is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4 KJV), it occurred to me that we cannot be kind after suffering unless we have suffered. We must truly bear one another’s burdens no matter how hard they are and how long it might take. We must be grateful we are able to serve without allowing ourselves to become angry and bitter at the loss of time and resources. We must be grateful for the lucid moments because they may never come again. We must be there by her side to give what comfort we can, because one day we will look back on the suffering and give an accounting to ourselves. Did I do enough? Did I love her as much as she loved me in my weakness?

During this time, I was touched by Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. My suffering pales in comparison. He had been in prison, beaten, hungry, shipwrecked, lost at sea and bitten by a serpent. He received 39 lashings from the Jews and was three times beaten with a rod. In his own words he was:

In journeyings often, in perils from waters, in perils from robbers, in perils from mine own countrymen, in perils from the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

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In weariness and painfulness, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

Besides those things which are external, there is that which cometh upon me daily: the care for all the churches ....

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

For this thing, I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

And He said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’”
— 2 Cor. 11:26-28, 12:7-9 KJV

Paul’s response is a banner of victory to us all. He knew the Lord had all power to take away the thorn in the flesh. It is interesting Paul didn’t even give it a name or how much this thorn caused him to suffer. He simply accepted the Lord’s answer and said:

Most gladly therefore will I glory rather in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in privations, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.
— 2 Cor. 12:9-10 KJV

It is easy to be grateful for the bounty of life and name things God has given us, but to glory in one’s challenges takes courage and a humble heart. Yet, as Napoleon Hill indicated, with every adversity there comes an equal blessing. If we through our suffering can have eternal life with Jesus, the blessings will far outweigh any suffering we may be called to endure in this mortal journey. We will come to understand as the psalmist wrote, “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 KJV). We, like Paul, can bow the knee and say, “I take pleasure in infirmities.  end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.

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