3 Ways to Rethink Adversity


3 ways to rethink adversity

Adversity reminds us that we all need a Savior.

Joel Pfahler

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For Cleveland Browns fans, winning a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in January felt as good as winning the Super Bowl. 

That’s because the Browns have never even played in a Super Bowl. Most fans could say that just making the playoffs for the first time in 18 years made the 2020 COVID crazy season a smashing success.

For teams that expect to make the playoffs, one win is nothing to celebrate about. So what makes it sweet for Cleveland fans after 20 years of losing seasons, bad draft picks, coaching carousels, heartbreaks and being the punchline of jokes is that all those years of adversity led to just one victory that can be treasured more than 20 years worth of regular season wins. 

As a fan, sometimes I doubted if staying loyal to the Browns was even worth it. I wondered if I should find another team or give up on following the NFL altogether. A couple years ago, I had little faith that the Browns would ever be a playoff contender.

But after the playoff win against the Steelers on January 10, 2021, I’m prouder than ever of my hometown team. (Something about those orange helmets.) Strangely enough, enduring all those years of embarrassment and misery seem to be worth it in order to enjoy a win like that.




No one wants a losing season. Wouldn’t it be great to go undefeated in life? But if we win everything handily, how do we know how good we really are? How do we know which areas of our lives need improvement? 

Persevering through hardship helps us appreciate the blessings we have in life. There was an area of my life that I thought was really hard until I developed a friendship with a homeless man in my neighborhood. As I learned about his life and as he repeatedly told me how blessed I am, I realized that I really am blessed. And there are people around me whose lives are much harder.

Going through adversity reminds us that we all need a Savior. God redeems adversity in our lives to help us find peace and hope in Jesus. When we turn the corner from a bad season to a good season, we can rejoice because we know that it is God who blesses and sustains us. 

The apostle Paul was a Jew who killed Christians, became blind physically so he could see spiritually, and endured much greater hardship for the sake of spreading the gospel around the Roman Empire. Consider his words in Philippians 4:11-13:

“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (NIV).

Through his trials, Paul learned to be content. Furthermore, his trials helped him embrace Jesus even more.


It’s easy to label mistakes as failures. Instead, mistakes are often the greatest teachers. To fail is to make mistakes and not learn from them. Not only do mistakes teach “how not to do something,” they can lead to improving methods, improving results and developing everlasting wisdom. A successful person will learn from his or her mistakes and shortcomings and gain wisdom in the process. 

Consider how Michael Jordan would have crafted his basketball skills if he hadn’t been cut from his high school team. He may have still turned out to be a decent player, but would he have had the same drive? Rather than settling for mediocrity, he chose to work on his game to become the best basketball player he could be. 

To succeed or to fail is a choice. Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities. 

Going through adversity reminds us that we all need a Savior.


In his book “S.H.A.P.E.: Finding & Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life,” author Erik Rees writes that God uses a person’s Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experiences to “shape” his or her purpose for life. All of life’s experiences — the wins as well as the losses — are part of who God is making us to be. 

Consider if LeBron James would be investing in kids’ education in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, if he hadn’t been raised by a single mother who struggled to find steady work. In addition to his LeBron James Family Foundation, James is an activist for racial equality and improving African American communities. Because of James’ own life experiences, he’s using his platform to advocate for others. 


Going through a hard season (or a series of hard seasons) doesn’t mean it’s the end. Instead, it may just be part of the development and redemption process. There’s hope in the struggle. 

Remember, God uses your experiences to SHAPE who He is crafting you to be. 

Learning from past mistakes leads to wisdom.

Overcoming hardship helps you appreciate blessings.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, said it this way:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 ESV).

Treasure life’s victories along the journey. God celebrates with you. Even if your team never wins a championship, you can find reasons to celebrate as if it did.

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