Saturday, April 23, 2016

Enjoying Adversity

The game Cards Against Humanity is not a good source of inspiration. In fact, I wouldn't recommend looking into it, since the game is built around the concept of making fill-in-the-blank sentences that often end up being "humorously" inappropriate. Regardless, I spent part of yesterday afternoon thinking about one of the cards in the game: "If God didn't want us to enjoy _, he wouldn't have given us _." I wanted to fill the two blanks in such a way that the sentence became doctrinally accurate and slightly insightful. I'm not sure I succeeded in the first part of my objective, but I think I succeeded in the second. The sentence I came up with was "If God didn't want us to enjoy climbing mountains, he wouldn't have given us mountains to climb."

I enjoy climbing mountains. I like the physical challenge of climbing mountains and the sense of accomplishment I feel when I reach the top. I love the view from the tops of mountains, and I appreciate the exercise I get from climbing them.

Interestingly, though, when mountains are brought up in a gospel setting, they almost always represent either temples or adversity. It's easy to enjoy temples. Going to the temple, whether you can actually enter the temple or not, can be an enrichingly spiritual experience. The personal challenge of becoming worthy to enter the temple is undoubtedly rewarding, and the blessings available within the temple are priceless.

But what of adversity? Is it possible, and did God intend us, to actually enjoy facing adversity? There are certainly some blessings to be gained from adversity. The spiritual exercise can be rewarding, and there are long-term blessings that could be related to the view from the top of a mountain. But can we enjoy the act of facing adversity the same way some people enjoy the act of climbing mountains, even before the payoff is gained?

Perhaps we can enjoy adversity, but only if we have the right attitude. When climbing a mountain, the going is often difficult, but the setting is usually nice. If we focus on the difficulty, we'd find the experience difficult to enjoy, but if we focus on the setting, we may enjoy the experience despite the difficulty of the trip. Additionally, if we set our minds forward, looking forward to the view from the top or the strength from the exercise, we can suffer through our mountain climbing with a patience born of faith. Similarly, if we face our adversity with faith in the blessings we may receive, we can endure our adversity well.

Still, that's not quite the same as actually enjoying facing adversity. If we're really looking forward to the blessings or really good at looking for the good in any situation, we might be able to pull it off, but I don't think that's really the point of adversity. God loves us and He wants us to be happy, but I think He's far more concerned with our ultimate happiness than with our present happiness. Thus, we face adversity, not because God hopes that we'll enjoy it, but because He knows that it'll bring us more joy in the long run. Thus, the phrase "If God didn't want us to enjoy climbing mountains, he wouldn't have given us mountains to climb" doesn't actually hold any water. Even if it was literally impossible to enjoy facing adversity, I think He'd give us adversity anyway, because He knows that the payoff is worth it.

But the fact that it's possible to enjoy facing adversity is an important truth to know. Now that we've established the one can have joy, even while facing adversity, we can take the steps necessary to do so, namely, developing a good attitude. We know that, in God's wisdom, we are going to face adversity whether we'll enjoy it or not, so we might as well try to make the best of it. When we face adversity, let's try to focus on the good that we can find in it and the blessings that we'll gain from it. Let's appreciate the opportunity to flex and strengthen our spiritual muscles. Let's rise to the challenge of trying to actually enjoy facing adversity.

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