Respond or React?
A Prayer to Open Our Study
“Heavenly Father, thank You for all the blessings that flow from Your hand to us, even in the mist of trials. We ask that You bring healing to every woman who is feeling broken. We ask that You give strength to every woman who is feeling weary. We ask that You bring joy to every woman who is feeling sadness. We ask that You bring faith to every woman here who is experiencing doubt. May we be filled with Your love and Your Holy Spirit.
In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.”
Lesson Two Part Four: How Should We Respond To Adversity?
In the past three posts for this lesson, Mr. Stanley asked us to wonder, “Why did this happen, and Who is responsible?” When trying to understand our adversity these questions make us look backwards. They help us point fingers in blame. But asking “How should I respond to this adversity” moves our focus forward. This is a more productive way to handle our response to our troubles.
When we face a “situation” in our lives we often have one of two ways to approach this, we either respond to the situation or we react to it.
What is the difference?
Being responsive is perceived as positive. Being reactive to a situation is generally perceived as negative. I spent many years listening to the motivational speaker and Christian Zig Ziglar. One of his observations that has stayed with me was his explanation of responding or reacting. Zig’s parable clearly defines the difference between them. He said, “You get sick and go to the doctor. Chances are good that after an examination, she would give you a prescription with instructions to return in several days. If, when you walk back in the door, the doctor shakes her head and says, It looks like your body is reacting to the medicine; we’re going to have to change it. You probably would get a little nervous. However, if the doctor smiles and says, You’re looking great! Your body is responding to the medication. You would feel relieved. Yes, responding to life is good.”
To paraphrase Zig Ziglar, there is a huge difference in reacting to medication or responding to it.
When we react to a situation it's often a fight-or-flight action, it is a defense mechanism. It is reflexive with little thought of the action or outcome. Reaction is usually a response to an emergency or a crisis. We seem to be at a disadvantage. We are uncomfortable with what is being said or done, and we react. In our reactions, our emotions take a central role. We ask why me or look for someone to blame. Being responsive usually involves some thought and reflection. It often involves being sensitive but logical in our actions. While it is still an external spur to a situation, responding is more thoughtful and done with reason behind it. Responding is guided less by emotion and more by logic.
It’s easy to be pulled into reacting; it takes more effort to respond. When we feel overwhelmed by a situation our instinct is to react to the situation. A better solution for us is to stop and engage in a conversation with ourselves or others, by listening, and asking solid questions, we can evaluate the situation and then make an informed response. How often do you find yourself reacting, rather than carefully analyzing the situation, and responding responsibly?
I know that I am a reactor when it comes to emotional stresses, things having to do with my family; and a responder when the issues are more tactile, things like car breakdowns, and money. There is a reason that we react the way we do. It can be very helpful to understand our reactions, and perhaps even their origins. Why not take a little time and jot down a few times you reacted when responding would have been a benefit; then look to see if there was a pattern. Seeing the big picture and understanding how the specific situation fits into our overall goals and objectives makes it easier to respond than react. You should stop and ask yourself the question: Are you reacting or why are you reacting. A question like this can ground and help you choose differently.
Unfortunately, not every Christian responds to adversity successfully. Some people are defeated rather than victorious as they face the various problems of life. Instead of praising God and walking in faith and perseverance, they develop a "woe is me" attitude. The adversity or opposition has little positive consequences because of how they respond to it.
Read: 2 Corinthians 4:16 and Proverbs 24:10
Mr. Stanley spoke with us about how the disciples felt as they stood at Calvary wondering why such a horrible thing as the crucifixion had taken place. And asking who was responsible for this. Blaming the Roman and Jewish leaders, sin, Satan and even God. Maybe you were surprised to hear him say that they all were responsible. But we need to remember that God is God and He will use whatever is necessary to achieve His Goal. And in this case, we should be glad that He did, and that the Christ’s response was to allow God to use this form of adversity, because our salvation was on the line. Think if Jesus had reacted, and did what Satan had suggested, that He call down the army of Angels to protect Him? Of course, Jesus would never have done that, He and God were of one mind, but as a fully human person, He knew the pain and separation that was coming. He boldly faced the situation and responded with acceptance and He even prayed for His attackers. “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
9. On the night of Jesus’ arrest when He prayed to God His Father, to spare Him from this on coming adversity. Mr. Stanley asked us to consider how Jesus responded.
Read Luke 22:41-42
If you are like me, you would like to face your opposition the way that Jesus did. But the truth is we can’t face our troubles with the same faith that Jesus had, because we are weak and mortal. Conversely, I have seen some Christians respond very successfully to adversity. By successfully I mean that despite the adversity in their life, their faith is strengthened, their walk with God progresses, and they continue to draw close to him and receive his blessings and provision for their life.
10. Mr. Stanley asked us what Jesus’ example teaches us about different ways that we as Believers can respond to opposition and adversity. So, with that in mind I will share with you 3 principles for responding to adversity that may help you to be successful.
1. First Principle: Christians should expect adversity.
I really believe that an essential key for overcoming adversity is to realize that it is the norm for the Christian life. This does not mean that believers should desire adversity or trouble. This also does not mean that we should consider every little problem an attack from Satan. It just means we should realize that God’s blessed and loved people will undergo real adversity. Life comes with trouble through various means including other people, government opposition, health problems, financial adversity, family struggles, etc... It also comes with joy and peace. This teaches us and shows us that receiving God’s blessings doesn’t mean having an easy life. The two should not be equated. Because, this is true, none of us should be surprised by adversity, but rather we should expect it. Jesus himself said, "In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world."
Read: Acts 14:22 and 1 Peter 4:12 and James 1:2
2. Second Principle: Christians should persevere during adversity.
C.S. Lewis said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Our troubles work like exercise, the more we face our fears and difficult situations, the stronger we become. As Christians we are called to set an example of faithful fortitude; pressing on in spite of our trials, leaning on the belief that God knows what is best. We are also reminded many times in the Bible that we are to be persistent in our prayer life. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing;” to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking and knock and keep on knocking. Remain persistent and don’t quit until you get what you are in need of. Prayer is important during adversity. Our persistence in prayer is a demonstration of true faith. It shows our dependence on the Lord instead of ourselves to solve our problems.
Read: James 1:3-4 Luke 18:1 and Romans 12:12
3. Third Principle: Christians should recognize the good that can come from adversity.
We can face and respond to troubles and trials differently if only we recognize the good that God can bring out of them. Now you may be saying to yourself, "I can see that God can bless us despite adversity, but did anything really good come because of the adversity?" The answer is "yes." I heard this story other day and I would like to share it with you.
"A ship was wrecked, and the only survivor washed up on a small uninhabited island. He was exhausted. He cried out to God to save him. Every day he scanned the horizon, searching for help. Finally, he managed to build a rough hut and put his few articles in that hut. One day, coming home from hunting for food, he was stung with grief to see his little hut in flames and a cloud of smoke. The worst had happened. But early the next day, a ship drew in and rescued him. He asked the crew, "How did you know I was here?" They replied, "We saw your smoke signal."
He only saw his hut on fire, not that the fire was his answer to prayers. Just like the man stuck on his island we can only see our problems not the plan. Maybe the difficulty you have now is a smoke signal that will lead to great blessing. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1
Read: Proverbs 3:5-6 and Deuteronomy 20:4 and Psalm 34:4
As we close lesson two it’s my hope that we are making progress in our struggles dealing with the adversity in our lives. We have seen that asking Why, leaves us feeling like victims and asking, Who is responsible, only adds to our problems by making us look for someone to blame. Far better for us is to learn to respond to our situations by using prayerful thoughts and exploration into how God may need us to grow or how He will use this to move us to a new level.
Charles Stanley wants us to consider these thoughts: Today and Tomorrow
Today: The most important response to adversity is to ask God, “How should I respond?”
Tomorrow: I will ask the Lord to show me what He wants me to learn through times of testing.”
Closing Prayer, Charles Stanley
“Father; You love us in ways we wouldn’t interpret as love, because we don’t see things the way You do. We thank You for every adversity You allow in our lives. Today, we pray the Holy Spirit of the living God-Your Spirit- would work His wonderful work of grace in the lives of those who are unsaved. We pray they would invite the Lord Jesus Christ as the Great Burden-bearer to share their load and to walk with them through the adversities of life. Amen.”