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Adversity and getting to know God

It is a glorious and joyous time to be alive: the fullness of the

gospel has been restored, media makes it possible for us to sit at

the feet and learn from God's prophets and apostles, the blessings

of the temple are available to more and more people, and priesthood

power has been diffused throughout the earth.However, for many, with

the recent worldwide economic downturn, with physical suffering, with

loved ones often deceived and turning from the gospel of Jesus

Christ, with Satan active and powerful in promoting evil, and with

sin increasing, heartache and sorrow are also omnipresent on the

earth.

Throughout history great theologians have addressed the subject of

adversity. Elder Neal A. Maxwell frequently took up the topic and elucidated

the truth that none of us will be free from difficulties in our

lives. Each of us will, at times, suffer and many will be pushed to

the extreme as one after another challenge comes in life.Elder Maxwell

called it wintry doctrine in the sense that it invites shuddering. Few wish to contemplate, anticipate and certainly do not

relish the idea of pain. Nevertheless it will be so.

C. S. Lewis was another who spoke often, and poignantly, about

affliction. He knew from personal experience — especially when his

wife, Joy, contracted and died from cancer — the sorrow that inevitably

comes into each individual life. He understood adversity as part and

parcel of mortality, regardless the defenses we try to mount against

it.Lewis explained, "Try to exclude the possibility of suffering

which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve,

and you will find that you have excluded life itself."

Lewis' experience with affliction led him to consider whether it

serves any useful purpose. He concluded that it does.In a

poignant testimonial he described adversity as a manifestation of

God's love, arguing, "Kindness cares not whether its object

becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering" while

love "would rather see (those we love) suffer much than be happy in

contemptible and estranging modes."

He illustrated the value of adversity with a story: "Imagine

yourself living in a house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At

first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the

drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew

that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But

presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts

abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up

to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house

from the one you thought of; throwing out a new wing here, putting an

extra floor there, running up towers, making court yards. You thought

you were going to be made into a decent little cottage; but He is

building a palace."

Another disciple of Christ who taught the importance of adversity was

the great Christian humanist Desiderius Erasmus. His life is best

encapsulated by his profession, "The glory (of a well-known) name

moves me not at all, I am not anxious over the applause of posterity.

My one concern and desire is to depart hence with Christ's favour."

Erasmus not only recognized suffering as part of the human condition

but identified the intrinsic good that can come with it."It is

good that we sometimes have griefs and adversities, for they drive a

man to behold himself and to see that he is here but as in exile, and

to learn thereby that he ought not put his trust in any worldly

thing. It also is good that we sometimes suffer contradiction, and

that we be thought of by others as evil and wretched and sinful,

though we do well and intend well; such things help us to humility,

and mightily defend us from vainglory and pride. We take God better

to be our judge and witness when we are outwardly despised in the

world and the world does not judge well of us. Therefore, a man ought

to establish himself so fully in God that, whatever adversity befall

him, he will not need to seek any outward comfort."

Adversity, or hardship and suffering, has the ability to push us to

the limits of human endurance, but it also has the capacity to drive

us into the arms of God. Therein lies its value.As one survivor of

the Martin Handcart Company explained, "In our extremities we came

to know God."