What a crazy time in all of our lives, as most of us experience our first ever worldwide crisis. By God’s grace, so far the COVID-19 virus has not yet reached Uganda. Until a few hours ago, we could only hear its sounds from the media, its effects from cancelled visitors, and its precautions from compulsory hand sanitizing in Kampala. But although its physical presence has not yet reached our neighborhood, our President just issued a 30 day closure of all schools, religious meetings, and public gatherings over 10 people. Therefore, Legacy, Community Bible Church, and Shepherds Training Center will be closing this Friday. Nonetheless, as we’ve watched your situation this past week, we, here at SOS, are mourning with you and are gearing ourselves up to face our own unique days ahead. We feel your fears, your discomfort, and your confusion. Even today, our leadership team took joy in getting on our knees for you all.
As we experience your bewilderment, I am reminded of the many painful trials I have experienced since living in Uganda these past fourteen years. And in an effort to encourage you and be helpful, I wanted to share with you five mentalities for handling adversity.
5 MENTALITIES FOR HANDLING ADVERSITY
1. Change your expectations. Life has so many crazy twists and unexpected turns, which often either lead to amazing adventures or significant disappointments. In my experience, the outcome is dependent not on the event, but on my expectation of the event. If I expect the weather to be extremely hot and it is mild, I am grateful. If I expect a poor showing at a conference and a good number of people show up, I feel thrilled. Visa versa is also true. If I expect a perfect holiday experience and I get robbed of all my possessions (which actually happened to us), it can be discouraging. Or if I expect the perfect family night and the power goes out, my fantasy of a blissful evening will be a disappointment. We can’t expect a sin-laden, cursed world to be perfect – heaven on earth. We must expect the opposite and praise God when it is anything but perfect. When we change our expectations, we can turn terrible events into wonderful adventures. After all, how does anyone like camping? It is the mentality, is it not? How can you rejoice in the imperfections of a situation and turn it into an adventure? If I can change a cold shower and an outhouse experience into an adventure, then you can be creative as well.
2. Let God’s sovereign presence enter into your world. God is present. He is in control. He is moving human history, preparing for His return, and fulfilling His end time promises. As Jesus said, a sign of His return will be plagues, famines, wars, and rumors of wars. These things should not surprise us, but should comfort us. He is returning. He is in control. He is present. Therefore, we must broaden our worldview to see His all powerful hand controlling these events. I will never forget my son boldly declaring to all of us in the car, after ALL our luggage was taken, “The Lord gives and takes away, blessed by the name of the Lord.” Those words changed our whole perspective. We went from angry to rejoicing, from distressed to pursuing joy. After all, as Christians we live our theology, we don’t just learn it.
3. Rejoice in God’s goodness. Not only is God controlling the events of human history, but the Bible promises that He is working all these events, even the bad ones, together for our good. Listen to the words of Psalm 103:1,4-5,17-19, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name…(God is the one) who crowns YOU with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies YOUR years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle…But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting ON those who FEAR Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, TO those who KEEP His covenant and REMEMBER His precepts to do them. The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” God does not abandon His own in the midst of hardship; He cares for them, lavishing loving kindness upon them. The Bible declares that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The circumstances of this fallen world may be hard, but God personally, intimately, and graciously ministers to us in the midst of our hardships. That is why the Psalmist praises God as his Shepherd who enables goodness and lovingkindness to follow us all the days of our lives. Who knows? Maybe these bad circumstances are protecting us from something even worse or are creating something far greater than we could have ever imagined! As I trusted God in the midst of having to move from my first Ugandan home in Mukono, little did I know that God would bring me to Luwero, which far surpasses my former circumstances. We don’t need to tighten our grip on what God desires us to hand over to Him; we simply need to say with Jesus, “not my will, but thy will be done.”
4. Fix your mind on God, and walk in obedience. The great hymn pronounces this idea the best, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.” We find our greatest joy, when our hearts are fully at rest in God and His way. We don’t need to know about tomorrow; we just need to focus on obedience today. This means—I don’t need to stress out, I don’t need to worry, I don’t need to get angry, I don’t need to try and take control—I NEED to trust and obey! The Bible declares that we are not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough problems of its own (Matt 6:34). The “what ifs” are safely held in the hands of God. Don’t be like the unbeliever who worries about uncontrollable factors, but act like a Christian and seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matt 6:33). Are you filled with love, JOY, PEACE, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control? If not, start resting in God! What good can you do to another? What kind deed? Getting angry to the person taking the last toilet paper roll is not love! If we want God’s results, we must follow God’s means, being committed to God’s ways. The Bible is true when it commands us to run this Christian life by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart. Dear brother and sister, if you are finding fruits other than Spirit led ones coming out of you, stop, repent, and turn your eyes back to God and walk in His way, FOR YOUR GOOD. Let your soul find its REST in God and His way.
5. Remember your calling. You are called to be the light of the world (Matt 5:14)! You are called to proclaim the excellences of Christ (I Peter 2:9)! You are called to be Christ’s witness (Acts 1:8)! So let’s get about our business. Let us let our light shine by considering how we can do good deeds and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16), and let’s keep our behavior excellent so that by our godly behavior the world will have nothing bad to say about us and everything great to say about God (I Peter 2:12). Let’s get our minds out of survival mode and into action. Let’s show the world that Jesus Christ is alive, because they see Him working in and through us. This could be the greatest opportunity we ever get to reach out to those around us. A pity party is never fun for anyone, so let’s turn our focus back onto Christ and His whole purpose of His saving of us – His exaltation.
My dear friends, here are a few lessons that I have learned along my own painful journey on my way to meet my King at the Celestial City, so I hope they will encourage you as you go through this momentary valley. I hope these few words will assist you to stay on God’s good and safe path. Know that we here at SOS love you and are praying for you. Thanks for your ministry to us here at SOS. I pray in some small way, I have been able to minister back.