I’m writing this article from the kitchen table of my cousin in Bradenton, Florida. This is the second year that Micah and I have made this pilgrimage here during his Spring Break. Last year everything seemingly went off without a hitch. Lots of fishing, baseball, a car race. This year…not exactly. Oh, there’s been plenty of everything that made last year great, just complications along the way, and a cast of characters that has made things interesting to say the least. And yet…I think Micah and I have survived amazingly well. We have persevered and have laughed heartily at our misfortunes. And my guess is we’ll remember overcoming these obstacles long after we’ve forgotten what went off without a hitch.
Well, we as FBC are engaged in another pilgrimage. A Lenten Journey toward the cross. It too is fraught with obstacles. Many of you are on personal journeys as well that are also fraught with difficulty that probably will not end with Easter. In the midst of such, companions, as Mary Kaylor’s sermon taught us, are absolutely essential to help us bear the pain and to give birth to something new. But what came to mind for me this week was the sense in which true friendships really are, as the old saying goes, forged in the midst of adversity. To put this another way—real friendships are not only necessary to our journey, they can be found on our journey, revealed to us along the way and/or strengthened for years to come. To say this is not to minimize the difficulty of any journey. It is merely to point out that a silver lining to a difficult journey may be the friendships you make and strengthen along the way.
Think of the relationships that matter the most to you. They may not have begun in adversity, but I bet they were forged there. Family members that saw you through a crisis. A friend who helped you get over a grief. A colleague who covered for you when you needed to take care of critical personal matters. President Ulysses S. Grant put it this way, “The friend of my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”
With that in mind, some thoughts:
- We’re all going through some difficulties, some more than others. But everyone is on a pilgrimage that involves significant challenges, or soon will be. Be aware of that. Be sensitive to that. Allow such knowledge to temper how you engage everyone, even strangers.
- Dare to walk with someone else in their adversity. Will such result in a closer relationship with this person? Maybe. Maybe not. But regardless, as children of God, we don’t let our brothers and sisters walk hard paths alone.
- Take notice of those who are coming alongside you in your adversity. Give thanks for how your relationships have been strengthened by even challenging circumstances.
- Remember that in Christ, this is exactly what God did for you, and me, and all. He came alongside us in our adversity. He bore our griefs and sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. And by his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53)
Yes, Lent is the call to walk with our Lord unto Jerusalem, even unto the cross. But never forget that our ability to do that is predicated upon the fact that in Christ, God has, does, and will walk with us when we need Him, especially when we need Him the most, in the midst of adversity. Ours is a God who will never leave us or forsake us even to the end of the age. Ours is a God who is not only present in the good times, but in the tough times, too. Indeed ours is a God who, as is revealed on the cross, knows that the best, the strongest relationships, the ones that matter, are the ones forged in adversity.
This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the April edition of Together.