By Dr. Hal Brady
There’s a story of a student at Iowa State University who took to selling magazine subscriptions for additional income. He decided that a likely customer might be the president of the university. The student was greeted at the door by the president’s wife who was able to resist his sales pitch by saying that her husband already received more magazines than he could read. Before turning to leave, the student assured her that he understood. It was then that the president’s wife saw something she had not noticed before. The student was disabled. She felt bad that she had turned him down, and probably out guilt called out to him and said, “I did not know you were disabled.” The student responded that being disabled was the result of having polio as a child. The woman then said, “My, how that must color your life.” The young man brightly responded, “It certainly does, but thank God I can choose the color.”
As we can see in this story, attitude plays a key role in our lives – especially in dealing with adversity. Attitude determines who we are and how we live day to day. Attitude can give us perspective and hope in all kinds of situations, whether difficult or not. Another significant point of the story is that the young man was not born with his good attitude. He pointed out that he chose the color. He chose how he would respond to his adversity. And that is also true of us. We can choose our response to adversity.
First, we can choose to resist it! The late noted minister Ralph Sockman once expressed this resistance or rebellion this way: “A grief is a sorrow we carry around in our hearts. A grievance is a chip we carry on our shoulders.” So many in their anger concerning their adversity blame God, others, or even themselves. Why did God allow this to happen? I can never forgive them. I should or shouldn’t have done that! In my earlier days, a lady in one of my churches lost three of her family members by death, one in an accident. As you might imagine, she had a very difficult time with her grief. But she turned bitter toward God and everyone else. She pulled the shades down in her home, sat in the dark all day and would see no one other than me, her pastor. In her resistance or rebellion, she greatly increased her bitterness and turmoil and delayed any sense of recovery.
Second, we can choose to give in to adversity! The late Hubert Humphrey waged a courageous battle against cancer. During the height of his illness he wrote: “The biggest mistake people make is giving up. Adversity is an experience, not a final act. Some people look upon setback as the end. They are always looking for the benediction rather than the invocation.”
Well, evidently, Jesus was not one of those “benediction” people. For in the midst of his adversity (his tough times in his hometown), Jesus refused to quit. He refused to give up. Jesus did not see in his adversity a hopeless situation. Consequently, he did not lose his perspective or zeal for the greater purposes of God. We can choose to give in!
Third, we can choose to cope with or overcome our adversity! Here we can take our cue from the apostle Paul. Paul could have been writing about his unfortunate experience of being in prison or how his missionary activity had ended abruptly. He could have been writing about his troubling adversity. But he wasn’t. Why? Because Paul understood that his impossibility could become God’s possibility. So he says this: “I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
If we can’t run, we can walk; if we can’t walk, we can crawl. And if we can’t crawl, we can do something. By God’s grace, our impossibility can become God’s possibility.
Oh yes, like the disabled young man in the story, we can choose the color!
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).