An old cowboy spent years working cattle ranches where winter storms took a heavy toll among the herds due to freezing rains and howling, bitter winds that piled snow into enormous drifts. Temperatures often dropped below zero degrees. Most cattle would turn their backs to the ice blasts and slowly drift downwind until finally a boundary fence would stop them – and there they would die.
But American bison or buffalo acted differently. Animals of this breed would instinctively head into the windward end of the range. They would stand shoulder to shoulder facing the storm blast, heads down against the onslaught. Typically, this resulted in the survival of the herd. There is a valuable lesson to learn from them: Face the storms of life head-on!
We need to understand the winds of adversity. I remember extremely difficult times when I was tempted to “throw in the towel,” stick my head in the sand, or blow the whistle to call it quits. My good friend and author, Jerry Bridges, had some great answers for me in his book: Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, especially in the chapter, “Growing through Adversity.” I also memorized Psalm 46:1 and found help in the hour of crisis: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Author and speaker Napoleon Hill has said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” What is this seed he is talking about? In the Bible’s Old Testament we find numerous examples:
* Abraham, in the book of Genesis. He spent years of learning how to obey, whom to obey, and when to obey. Along the way Abram experienced detours, disputes and disappointments. But God rewarded his faith and obedience, even in the face of adversity and uncertainty.
* Job, in the book named after him. He had experienced years of prosperity, happiness and success. Then the roof caved in on his life, the walls fell out, and he became a total failure in the eyes of many – he lost his family, fortune, fame and fitness. Understandably he lamented, “God breaks me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds without cause” (Job 9:17). But then he discovered the importance of waiting, even if it requires weeks or months. He learned the value of patience in adversity. “Though He slay me, I will trust Him,” Job was able to say. When a promise seems to fail, Job discovered, you can always trust the One that makes the promise.
* Joseph, also in the book of Genesis. His life amounted to years of riding a 24-hour rollercoaster. In moments, he went from the paternal favorite in his family to the pit; from a position of prominence to prison; from the pen to the penthouse; from plight to prime minister. Eventually he was able to say to his betraying brothers, “You thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good” (Genesis 50: 30).
The Bible teaches what we could call “The Law of Increase”: “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never to be any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over” (John 12:24). Sometimes the appearance of death is merely a harbinger of greater life.
When hardships come your way, and they will come, remember and cling to this truth: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of adversity” (Psalm 46:1).
Robert D. Foster is the founder of Lost Valley Ranch near Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A. A businessman and author of weekly business-related meditations for more than 50 years, he now resides in California.
1. How do you typically react when faced with adversity in any of its various forms?
2. What do you think of the example of the Hereford cattle that, instead of turning away from the harsh weather stood side by side and faced the adverse conditions head-on? How might you apply that principle where you work?
3. Give your reaction to the biblical examples of Abraham, Job and Joseph. Do you think their experiences are relevant for the uncertain, turbulent, unpredictable business and professional world of the 21st century? Why or why not?
4. Mr. Foster repeats the passage, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of adversity”? Do you believe this? Explain your answer.
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Proverbs 2:7-8, 17:22, 18:14, 24:10; Romans 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; James 1:2-8