The word “adversity” in our text above is the word “ra`” in Hebrew, which is typically translated as “evil”. So then, when days of “adversity” or “wickedness” or “evil” befall us, let us consider that inasmuch as God has appointed days of prosperity, He has also appointed days of adversity which we might call evil. And if we thank Him for the one, shall we not thank Him for the other? God has “appointed” or “set” our days of adversity and evil. Even as God “made” the firmaments of heaven and the two great lights and the beasts of the field, He has “made” our days of adversity; it is the same Hebrew word. Can man pluck the sun from its place or move the earth from its orbit? No. They are set by God, and we rejoice that He has set them in their place. What shall we say then? “…who can make straight what He has made crooked?” (Ecclesiastes 7:13) Rejoice in all that God has set, including the days of adversity.
It is not only not a surprise to God when evil befalls us, but we must know that He appoints such days in His sovereignty. Not that God authors sin or evil (this is a wicked thought), but that He permits us to experience it and even appoints it to us. Immediately after the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul) on the road to Damascus, a man named Ananias was visited by the Lord in a vision. In His instruction about Saul of Tarsus, the Lord tells him, “… I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16) The apostle Paul suffered much, and God told it to Ananias before any of it had happened. What was the purpose of it? “For my name’s sake.” Meditate on this! For God’s own name are we appointed suffering. Ah, but someone will say, “This is cruelty. Surely God would not appoint deliberate suffering if we being evil would never dream of appointing suffering to our children.” But you reason according to your own wisdom and not by His word. “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” (Romans 9:20) God’s ways are “past finding out” and yet He has given us His word that though we are afflicted from without, we might be comforted through Him from within.
Too often, we miscalculate suffering as always equivalent with wrath or retribution. But this is far from the case. It is true that suffering can be the result of disobedience, and that God will not be mocked. Men do reap what they sow, but this is not always the reason for adversity or suffering. Indeed, more often than not the righteous are afflicted as a result of their obedience and faithfulness. The author of Hebrews presents to us the exemplary models of faith in chapter 11; this “great.. cloud of witnesses” which we would do well to emulate. But in all our admiration, let us consider carefully a theme all too common in the faithful such as these:
God Appoints Our Suffering (Ecclesiastes 7:14)