No one wants to experience tough times. But when they come our way, we have a choice about how to view them: as a burden or a bridge. Many people believe that they draw closer to God through blessings, but really, we discover God’s true love, mercy and grace through difficult situations and circumstances. For more messages from Charles Stanley, including this week’s broadcast, go to





male announcer: “In Touch,”
with Dr. Charles Stanley,

celebrating 45 years of God’s
faithfulness and sharing

the gospel worldwide.

Next on “In Touch,”
“Adversity–Burden or Bridge?”

Dr. Charles Stanley: Well,
there are probably more people

going through adversity
today than

a long, long time.

And a lot of that is because
of financial circumstances

and situations.

And they’re facing things they
never faced before.

They never even thought about
losing their home or not being

able to send their
kids to college.

Never thought about the fact
that they wouldn’t have all

their needs met and the way
they’d been meeting them.

Never thought about the somebody
would walk in and say, We don’t

need you anymore in this job.

Adversity comes in all forms.

And when I think about it,
I think about,

how universal it is.

It doesn’t make any difference
where you live, where you come

from, what color, what culture,
doesn’t make any difference.

Adversity is just adversity.

What really makes the difference
is our attitude.

Makes all the difference
in the world.

And so, when a person’s attitude
is that they want to blame

somebody else or put somebody
else on the responsibility road,

then things don’t
work out right.

It’s when my attitude is
right that matters.

And what I want you to
understand in this message,

I want you to understand that
adversity in our life can either

be this overwhelming sense
of burden.

This burden that is
weighty, heavy.

That makes us weary, tired,
restless, and just worn out.

Or the same adversity can be
like a bridge.

Like a bridge that leads me to
a deeper relationship to God.

It’s all in my attitude and all
in my understanding of what God

is doing.

So in your own life would you
say that the adversity in your

life is like a burden?

It’s a heavy weight in your life
and you just keep thinking,

God how much am I going
to have to go?

Or do you see it
as an opportunity?

As a bridge over which you can
travel above those circumstances

and above all the adversity
that’s there because you

understand that it’s leading you
into a deeper relationship

with Jesus Christ?

Well, the apostle Paul is the
best example in the Scripture of

a person who not only went
through all kinds of adversity

but who understood the
most basic principles.

And in this passage, if you will
listen carefully, and I want to

encourage you to write down
these statements, it will help

you, enable you to keep your
attitude right, the goal right,

understand what God is doing in
your life, and you will have

a totally different attitude
about whatever you’re going

through, whatever that may be.

So I want you to turn to second
Corinthians chapter twelve.

And you’ll remember in second
Corinthians, Paul is writing

about many things dealing
with the church.

But one of those things that
he’s dealing with here in this

eleventh and twelfth chapters is
his own adversity and the things

he had to go through.

So in the eleventh chapter
he lists many things that

he had had to suffer.

For example, he said, “He was
stoned and left for dead in

Lystra, and he was shipwrecked,
and left out there to die,

and he was beaten several
times with rods.

He was jailed over, and over,
and over again.

They tried to assassinate him
several times.

And so, this is the kind of life
he lived from the time he

was saved, went to Arabia,
to understand better

the Word of God.

When he came back and began
to preach, it was one adversity

after the other.

And he sort of ends up his list
in the eleventh chapter in he

ends it up sort of in verse
twenty-eight by saying, “Apart

from such external things, there
is the daily pressure on me, of

concern for all the churches.”

And so he said “daily pressure.”

That is, this wasn’t something
that happened once in a while.

Daily he felt the burden.

He felt the pressure, daily.

Of all the churches that he’d
started, what’s happening

to them, is that false doctrine
entering these churches.

In other words, he had a
tremendous responsibility

and opportunity.

But adversity was a
big part of it all.

So what did he learn?

How did he go through this?

What was his attitude?

And I want us to come to this
passage in a few moments just to

look at all the things that he
learned that you and I can learn

that will help us face whatever
we have to face in life.

You’re going to face adversity.

The question is, how are you
going to face it?

How are you going to respond?

Are you going to respond in a
way that you come out winning no

matter what?

Or are you going to face it in
such a way that you’re going

to try to deny it?

That’s not going to work.

You go to alcohol and sex and
drugs, they’re not going

to work.

Or some kind of pleasure that
none of that’s going to work.

So how are you going to face it?

Are you going to
crumble beneath it?

Are you going to say, I can
handle it some way?

Are you going to deal
with it in reality?

What I want you to see, and the
rest of this message is this,

there are some specific truths
the Apostle Paul learned, that

he’s sharing in this passage,
that will help you through any

and every adversity in life.

So, I want you to listen
carefully for your own sake

because it’s gonna happen,
you’re gonna need it, and the

question is: how are
you gonna respond?

So I won’t put these in any
order necessarily of importance

from somebody’s viewpoint.

I just want to start with this
very first thing and that is,

he learned this, that he and all
of these are on the mag screens.

And I want you–encourage you
to write them down.

He learned that he could
experience contentment in the

midst of his adversity.

Which is what most people
never learn.

That he could be content in
the midst of his adversity.

Now, in chapter four of
Philippians for example in that

eleventh verse, he says this
very thing when he’s writing

about what’s happening to him.

He says in verse ten, “But I
rejoiced in the Lord greatly,

that now at last you have
revived your concern for me;

indeed, you were concerned
before, but you have

lacked opportunity.”

They’ve been supporting him and
then they couldn’t be.

He says, “Not that I speak from
want, for I have learned to be

content in whatever
circumstance I’m in.”

So, now back to this twelfth
chapter, where we’ll spend

most of our time, beginning in
this particular passage, and

I want you to notice what
he says in verse 10.

He says, “Therefore, I’m
well-content,” with what?

“Weaknesses, insults,
distresses, persecutions,


That’d send most people to bed.

He says, “I’m content
with these things.”

Now, why could he say that?

Because he knew how to respond.

Here’s what he learned, he
learned that he was learning

something about his
relationship to Jesus.

And he was learning that these
things were not tearing him down

but that somehow he could have

And remember he’s writing.

He’s writing Philippians and
Ephesians, Colossians.

He’s writing these epistles from
a prison cell because he’s gone

one jail to the other.

And now he’s talking about the
fact that one thing he learned

was that he could have
contentment in the midst

of all that.

There’s only one way to be
content in the midst

of adversity.

And when we go through these I
think as they we add one upon

the other you’ll
understand that.

The second thing that I want you
to notice here is this, he could

experience God’s supernatural
strength in his weakness.

Because that’s what
adversity does.

Adversity, adversity makes us
weak, emotionally or physically,

whatever it might be.

It makes us weary and tired and
worn out.

And here’s what he says, he
said, he learned that he could

experience God’s
supernatural strength.

Listen to what he says in this
passage in in in second

Corinthians, in verse ten,
“Therefore I’m well content with

weaknesses, with insults, with
distresses, with persecutions,

with difficulties, for Christ’s
sake,” he says, “for when I am

weak then I am strong.”

Here’s what he learned, he says,
“Here’s what I’ve learned,

I’ve learned that when I’m at my
weakest moments in my life,

when I think, I just can’t
keep going.”

Remember what he said?

The daily pressure of the
churches is upon him, the fact

that they try to assassinate
him, stone him, whip him.

In other words, he says, what
I’ve learned is this:

When I am the very weakest,
I get my greatest surge of the

presence of the supernatural
energy and power in my life.

I can keep going.

It’s when I think I can’t that I
begin to realize who is my Lord?

Who is my strength?

What is this life within me?

It is the life of Jesus.

And he says, When I come to
those points that I think I

can’t handle it that’s when I
get this new, fresh awareness

and energizing of
Christ within me.

Energizing me and enabling me.

And so, that being true,
whatever he was facing, like

a bridge, these truths would
help him to drive right over it.

And then he said he had learned
the–listen, he said he had

learned the source for all
of his needs.

Notice what he says in this
passage, he says beginning

in verse nine.

“And He has said to me, ‘My
grace is sufficient for you,

for power is perfected in

Most gladly,” he says,
“therefore, I will rather boast

about my weaknesses, so that
the power of Christ

may dwell in me.”

He says, I’ve learned that my
sufficiency is in Christ.

He says, I’ve learned that when
I’m going through these

difficulties, when there’s no
one there to help me; and

oftentimes he was abandoned
even by his friends.

He says, I’ve learned that
whatever my need is, Christ is

my sufficiency.

Knowing Him, loving Him, being
loved by Him, being cared

for by Him.

This relationship, this intimate
relationship that he

has with Christ.

He says, What I’ve learned is
that even in my worst adversity,

that relationship gives me
a sense of sufficiency.

Because I know that
He’s made promises.

He’s made promises that He’s
going to guide me and keep me

and supply my need
whatever that might be.

And, of course, you and I all
know the verse in Philippians,

“My God shall supply all your
needs according to his riches

and glory in Christ Jesus.”

That comes from a person who
spent a lot of time in jail

persecuted, stoned, shipwrecked,
you name it.

What’s he saying?

He’s talking about
being content.

He’s talking about the
supernatural energy of Almighty

God coercing through his life,
equipping him, and making him

sufficient to deal with any and
every circumstance of life.

You see, he was looking in the
right direction when

adversity came.

Not looking within himself, but
looking to the Lord Jesus, and

knowing and having learned, and
learning at the same time there

was something about that
relationship that made it

possible for him to
rise above that.

And this is why, for example,
also in Philippians, he says,

“The whole praetorian guard,
they know I’m here in jail, and

as he was chained to these
soldiers and sharing his faith

with them, God was working
mighty miracles through

his life.”

Because you see, he didn’t give
up and quit, and he didn’t say,

“Well, God, where are you?”

He was learning something.

And he’s learning something that
he’s placed in this passage.

He learned that God was a source
of all of his needs.

And he also, listen, came to
realize that he could trust

in the faithfulness of God.

He could trust in the
faithfulness of God.

That is, that God was going to
be true to His promises.

And when I think about that
promise I think about what he

says in verse ten.

He says, “Therefore I’m well
content with weaknesses, with

insults, with distresses, with
persecutions, with difficulties,

for Christ’s sake; for when I’m
weak then I’m strong.”

He said, I know that my God is
going to be faithful to keep

His word.

That’s He’s going to supply
my needs.

That that I’m going to be
sufficient in Him to face any

and every situation and
circumstance of life.

And, you see, when a person
begins to question the

faithfulness of God because of
adversity, God wants us at that

point to turn to him, and ask
the question, “Were you faithful

back yonder?

Were you faithful to
keep your word?

Did you do what
you promised here?

When I prayed there, what

That is, the truth is if you’ll
think about it, God can’t do

anything but be faithful.

That’s who he is.
That’s his nature.

And because His nature is to be
faithful to us we can trust Him.

That in whatever circumstance
we’re going through, whatever

the situation may be, that we
can count on Him to be who He

says He is, count on Him to do
what He says He’ll do and see us

through it no matter what.

Then another issue that he
learned here and that I think is

so very, very valuable.

He says for example, he learned
that God valued his service more

than his desires.

Now listen to what he says
in this twelfth chapter,

verse seven.

He says for example, “Because of
the surpassing greatness of the

revelations, for this reason, to
keep me from exalting myself,

there was given me a thorn in
the flesh, a messenger of Satan

to torment me, to keep me
from exalting myself!”

Here’s what he saying, it’s
an awesome valuable lesson.

He says, I’ve learned that from
God’s perspective, He knows

exactly what it takes to bring
me into an intimate relationship

with Him.

And, listen, watch this, God is
so desirous to bring us into

that living, eternal, listen,
satisfying, enjoyable,

intimacy with Him.

That look, He will overlook my
desires in order to do what?

He will overlook my desires in
order to equip me to serve Him.

But if I choose to just soak and
have self-pity and all the rest,

I’m going to lose the most
wonderful opportunity.

And the most wonderful
opportunity, watch this, is not

just being a servant of God, but
this wonderful, intimate

relationship that develops in
that kind of adversity that

comes no other way.

Then I think about what he says,
when he says, he learned that

even in his adversity, that God
was strengthening his message

to his followers.

And that’s interesting because
in Philippians, here he is in

jail and here’s what’s

some of his followers were out
there and they’re not being very

understanding of the apostle
Paul, in fact they’re

criticizing him.

And here’s what he says in
verse thirteen, “So that my

imprisonment in the cause of
Christ has become well known

throughout the whole Praetorian
Guard,” and they were the ones

who had defended the emperor,
“And to everyone else, and that

most of the brethren, trusting
in the Lord because of my

imprisonment, have far more
courage to speak the Word of God

without fear.”

Now he says, “Some, to be sure,
are preaching Christ even from

envy and strife, but some are
for good will.”

That is, here’s what he’s
saying, he says, That even in

our adversity, God is doing
something in our life.

What is He doing?

He’s strengthening our message.

Because you see, when you go
through difficulty and hardship

and pain in your life and you
begin to understand how God is

working in your life, your faith
your faith for example

becomes stronger.

And, he also learned to see
everything as coming from God.

Which is one of the basic
principles to prevent a person

from being bitter and
resentful and hostile.

Listen to what he says
in this passage.

He says, for example, in
verse seven, “Because of the

surpassing greatness of the
revelations, for this reason,

to keep me from exalting myself,
there was given me a thorn in

the flesh, a messenger of Satan
to torment me, to keep me from

exalting myself!”
Now, where did that come from?

Ultimately it had to be God.

That is, God could
have stopped it.

He could’ve stopped all of that.

But He allowed it.

What was He doing?

He was allowing these things
in his life.

And Paul said one of the
greatest things he’d learned,

was to be able to see everything
as coming from God.

Then of course he learned
something else.

And that is, he says, we become
far more capable of being

comforters to other people when
we have been through adversity

and have been comforted

Now he says that in different
ways in this particular passage.

But I want us to go back to what
he said in the first chapter

of this book.

This is the twelfth chapter
we’ve been talking about but

back in the first chapter, he
starts off his–this letter

to the Corinthians.

And here’s what he says.

He says, “Blessed be the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of mercies and God of
all comfort, Who comforts us,”

watch this, “Who comforts us
in all our afflictions or

adversities so that we will be
able to comfort those who are in

any affliction with the comfort
with which we ourselves are

comforted by God.”

Then he says on later in that
verse, in the same chapter,

“For we do not want you to be
unaware, brethren, of our

affliction which came to us in
Asia, but we were burdened

excessively, beyond our
strength, so that we despaired

even of life.”

That’s what he
was going through.

And what
is he talking about?

He’s talking about, that God, in
those situations by comforting

him, has equipped him to be
a comforter of other people.

You can only comfort people
genuinely when you’ve been hurt,

when you’ve felt pain, when
you’ve felt rejection, when you

have felt in need and when you
have felt yourself heading

in the wrong direction.

When you’ve felt yourself losing
it, losing it, losing it in life

and somehow God begins to
work in your life His

awesome comfort.

And he says, what he’s learned
is this, we become the most

effective when we’ve
hurt the most.

When we have to be comforted
then we understand what it means

to comfort someone else.

So when he talks about all the
things that he’s learned, and

how to deal with adversity,
listen, here’s what he’s saying:

when I’m dealing with adversity,
I understand that God is

equipping me in
the very process.

Equipping me to be a comforter
to someone else.

So we don’t like adversity, but
what we have to ask is this:

when am I the most effective?

When I have hurt like
they’ve hurt.

When I have felt what they felt.

So, am I willing to feel what
they feel, and hurt like they

hurt, and have pain
like they’ve hurt?

Am I willing to suffer loss if
that will equip me to be the

kind of comforter that
some people need?

Paul says, “Yes, yes indeed,
I will.”

And what I’ve learned in my
needs and my hurts, that I am

the strongest and most effective
in my comforting.

Then, of course, he
mentions something else.

He says, “He learned that God
had a specific purpose for

the adversity.

Now that’s what he starts off
saying in this 12th chapter.

Listen to what he says: “Because
of the surpassing greatness of

the revelations,” now what
is he talking about?

Now, the book of Revelation is
singular, Revelation, because it

was one prophetic revelation.

When he talks about these
surpassing revelations that he

has, it meant those times, those
situations and circumstances in

which God revealed him–to him
this truth, and that truth,

and this truth, and that truth.

He’s says, “God had given him
such awesome, surpassing

revelations, that in order to
keep him from becoming prideful,

and arrogant, he says, ‘There
was given me a thorn in the

flesh, a messenger of Satan
to torment me, to keep me

from exalting myself.'”

Now, you might think about this
when you’re going through

something and it’s
very difficult.

You may ask yourself the
question, “God, what’s your

purpose for this?”

In fact, you have a
right to ask that.

In fact, you should ask it.
What’s your purpose?

And Paul said, “I know
what the purpose is.”

He says, watch this.

If God has a–watch
this carefully.

If God has a purpose for
everything he allows in our

life, would you say is it a good
purpose or a bad purpose?

I didn’t get much
answer on that.

I do understand that.

Listen, what kind of God is he?

He is a good God, he’s a perfect
God, he’s an unconditionate

loving God, so that whatever he
allows in our life, there is a

specific purpose he has in mind,
and that purpose, listen, is not

only good for him,
but it’s good for us.

What did he say?

He said, “My God
causes all things.”

Now, what we do, we take out all
things and we interpret it.

To be sweet, loving, wealthy,
all these wonderful things.

Famous, and all this.

He causes all things, yes.

Pain, suffering, hardship.

We sort of misinterpret
that word.

What we–we put in there what
we want to happen.

My God causes all things, all
includes all, to work together

for my good because he loves us.

And so, when you think about
that, if you really and truly

believe that, listen, this is
painful, I don’t like it, but

somehow, according to what I
read in the scripture, God’s

working this thing out
for my good.

And then of course, he learned
that he could rejoice in the

midst of his adversity.

And I love Philippians because
it’s so many wonderful

verses here.

But look if you will in this
fourth chapter of Philippians.

Here’s what he says, he says,
“Rejoice in the Lord always;

again I will say, rejoice!”

He wrote in jail;
in a Roman prison.

And he’s talking about
rejoicing, why?

Because here’s what he learned,
all these things that had

happened to him, instead of
having a pity party and wanting

to break out of jail, and
getting somebody to rescue him,

and spending his days and nights
of crying, God, please rescue

me, please get me
out of this place.

What was he doing?

He was just taking all those
experiences and running them

over in his mind and his heart,
and gleaning and learning and

reaping the most richest of
rewards of who this God is

that he served.

So whatever adversity you’re
facing, most of the time you

can’t control it.

So you have to decide how you’re
going to think about it.

Are you going to think about it
as a bridge that God is

building for you?

Listen, to bring you into an
intimate relationship with Him

for which no man on earth
can create for you.

A relationship to Him that you
will never be able to fully

fathom all the days
of your life.

A relationship with Him for
which He died to make possible.

A relationship with Him that’ll
absolutely revolutionize your

life; equip you to be a strong
servant of God.

Or do you want to just have
pity parties?

Drink, carouse, sex, anything
to get your mind off of it?

And it’s interesting your mind
never gets off of it.

So that’s the devil’s approach.

Or you can take Paul’s approach.

This is a bridge and I’m going
to travel above all this because

I know what’s on the other side,
this indescribable, sweet,

precious, eternal relationship
with Jesus Christ.

That’s what it’s all about.

So look at your adversity
whatever it may be, and ask

yourself the question, God, how
have I been acting?

How have I been responding?

And let me just say this, you
may not be a Christian and you

think, What in the world is
all of this about?

Here’s what it’s about,
it’s about God,

getting your attention.

Sending you enough heartache and
pain and suffering that finally

it’ll drive you to Himself.

You can resist it.

You can rebel against it, but
only to your own hurt and pain.

What He wants is to for you to
recognize He created you for

Himself, not for yourself.

He wants you to confess your
sinfulness, your inadequacy and

rely upon Him to forgive you of
your sins through His Son Jesus

who died at the cross and paid
your sin debt in full.

Surrender your life to Him and
watch Him.

You say, Will that take away
all my adversity?

Not necessarily.

You–because you see, look, He
knows how much of that you need

to make you the person
He wants you to be.

But you do have two choices.

You can rebel or
you can surrender.

And that’s the best way and
that’s my prayer for you.