“Therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers . . . Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chronicles 33:11–13).
HARD HEARTS NEED TO BE “OPENED,” AND SOMETIMES THE ONLY THING THAT WILL OPEN THEM IS ADVERSITY. For this reason, we need to be careful about our attitude toward adversity.
Hardship tends to have a chastening effect upon us. If our hearts have begun to toughen up with a spirit of pride or self-sufficiency, the unwelcome pain of some serious difficulty can be a salutary thing. It can soften our hearts and open them up by reminding us of the proper reverence we ought to have toward our Creator, thus restoring our perspective.
Affliction doesn’t always soften a person’s heart, of course. Sometimes it has the opposite effect. Concerning those who lived in his day, Jeremiah said, “O Lord, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return” (Jeremiah 5:3). If we have chosen the “victim mentality” as our basic outlook on life, affliction will only make us feel more sorry for ourselves — our hard hearts will only grow harder and more resentful. A time can come when, for all practical purposes, we’ve lost our ability to hear the truth even when God is using adversity to get our attention.
Often, however, pain does have a beneficial effect, at least in the long run. Hardship has a way of scratching the shell around our hearts just deeply enough to let in a little of the truth we’ve been resisting, and the result is a more receptive, honest response to the circumstances around us. We’re wise if we allow adversity to have this effect upon us.
There is an important sense in which we are strongest at our most painful moments of weakness. At least this much is true: our greatest opportunities to grow in strength come when we respond to reminders of our weakness with humility and honesty.
“Affliction plows and opens our hearts, so that into our innermost nature the truth penetrates and soaks like rain into the plowed land” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon).