Influence

 the shape of leadership

The Difference Maker in Times of Adversity

Maintaining a Christ-centered perspective through trials

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul shared a long list of trials and hardships he experienced while preaching the gospel. Paul was beaten, rejected, persecuted, robbed, stoned, whipped and imprisoned. He faced shipwrecks, angry mobs, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst — and received 39 lashes on five different occasions (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

Paul experienced a hard life, to say the least. But despite the pain and suffering he endured, Paul made a wonderful observation. He said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

For every negative experience Paul had, he highlighted the positive. Yes, he was hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. But in Paul’s mind, he was not crushed, in despair, abandoned by God or destroyed.  

What was the difference maker in Paul’s life? Perspective. Paul had the ability to see hardship with the right set of lenses. He understood that adversity in life doesn’t mean abandonment from the Lord.

In his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Mark Batterson shares the story of Corrie ten Boom, a Holocaust concentration camp survivor. After the war, ten Boom spoke to audiences about her horrific experiences.

Your circumstances don’t have to define you, but they can refine you for a bigger purpose.

As she spoke, ten Boom always looked down — but not at her notes. She was working on a piece of needlepoint. After sharing about the pain and anger of her experience, ten Boom held up the needlepoint for her audience to see.

First, ten Boom showed the audience members the back of the needlepoint, a jumbled mess of threads, and said, “This is how we see our lives.” Then she revealed the design on the other side and concluded with these words: “This is how God views your life. And someday we will have the privilege of viewing it from His point of view.”

Perspective is the difference maker in how we handle adversity. Your circumstances don’t have to define you, but they can refine you for a bigger purpose. That transition begins with a new perspective.

Although Paul experienced a great deal of hardship, he never let it destroy his perspective.

In 2 Corinthians 1:9-11, Paul said, “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Notice two outcomes of Paul’s perspective. First, Paul’s reliance on God increased. In fact, in his mind, that was the purpose of the adversity. Second, Paul’s hope was rooted in Christ. Paul had full confidence that God would deliver him.

Paul let his pain push him toward God, not away from Him. Paul’s reliance was on God, and his confidence was in God.

As leaders, our perspective is contagious. How we see things will shade how our teams, ministries and churches see things. If we have a hope-filled perspective that exhibits trust in God, it will ripple through the teams we lead. If we let a woe-is-me mindset taint our perspective, negativity will run rampant through our churches.

You might not be able to control the hardship you’re dealing with, but you can control your response to it. That begins with perspective. Get your head out of the weeds, see the big picture, and let God form a fresh perspective in your heart and mind.

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