The Value of Adverse Experience
On July 24, 2020 news agencies reported the story of a reporter whose life may have been saved by another person’s adverse experience. Two weeks ago, investigative journalist Victoria Price received an alarming viewer email. The email read:
“Hi. Just saw your news report. What concerned me is the lump on your neck. Please have your thyroid checked. Reminds me of my neck. Mine turned out to be cancer. Take care of yourself.”
At the urging of her boyfriend, Victoria made an appointment with her doctor, who referred her to a specialist. She soon received the results of her tests and, sure enough, she had thyroid cancer and it was spreading to her lymph nodes. Sue underwent surgery to remove her thyroid and some of her lymph nodes a few days after the report and has fully recovered.
But when she was first diagnosed, Victoria replied back to the woman who emailed her, thanking the cancer survivor for alerting her to a dangerous condition. Victoria, who describes herself as “a tough broad,” typically ignores any symptoms of sickness –especially if they interfere with her job. That’s why Victoria concluded that this cancer survivor probably saved her life.
Once her surgery and recovery were over, Victoria began to use her job as a platform to raise awareness about thyroid cancer. She saw it as a way of “passing on the blessing that was given to her.” Who knows how many other women – the primary sufferers of thyroid cancer -will be saved by her efforts.
It is important to note that it was not a doctor who alerted Victoria to the deadly problem she would have otherwise ignored. It was not anyone with a medical degree. It was a woman who had personally suffered the very same ordeal. Among the hundreds of thousands of viewers and admirers – Victoria Price is a pretty woman – the only one who spotted that lump in her throat was a thyroid cancer survivor.
To me this illustrates the value of adverse experience – even over formal education. Paul the apostle once wrote that “knowledge” tends to make a person arrogant (1 Corinthians 8:1). But adverse experience has the advantage of both informing and humbling the person who endures it.
The Bible gives several reasons why God must administer adversity to our lives. One reason is that it serves as essential discipline to every true child of God (Hebrews 12:4-11). Adverse experience and tribulation are essential to developing a Christ-like character within us (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-3). We hate adversity. It often leads us to think that God is “fighting against us” (e.g. Job 13:24; 16:9; 19:11; 33:10; Psalm 73). Yet God’s own love is what drives Him to apply this discipline to our lives (Hebrews 12:5-6). Without this adverse experience we will never be prepared for Heaven.
But the adversity which God allows in our lives also prepares us to serve humanity. Think about it. Have you ever shared your troubles with someone who has never experienced the same? You’re not likely to get much sympathy from them. You might even get a blank, apathetic stare from them – which immediately lets you know you’re talking to the wrong person.
No, it’s always best to share your experience with someone who has undergone the same problems. They will be a treasure house of comfort and wisdom. Plus, if that person is a Christian believer, it’s likely that they’ve already received comfort and insight from God. And they can share that life-giving comfort with you. In fact, that is part of God’s plan for the suffering we endure.
First, our suffering provides a venue through which we can hear God’s voice and be comforted by Him. Then, when other people suffer the same adversity, we are already equipped – by our own experience and the comfort God’s given us – to encourage and comfort others.
Paul the apostle recognized this when he wrote, “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).
Is your life filled with tribulation? Then be encouraged. God is not fighting against you. He’s ultimately equipping you. He’s making you a storehouse of help and comfort to others. Someday down the road, when people cry on your shoulder because of their hardships, you will finally understand why you have endured your troubles. Rather than look at the sufferer with a blank apathetic stare, you will become the one person on earth who can help them. You will be an effective instrument of God’s peace and healing in the lives of others.
PRAYER: Dear Father in Heaven, when trials and tribulations engulf me, help me to look to You for comfort. Help me to remember how Jesus Himself suffered such harsh discipline to make Him a more perfect Savior (Hebrews 2:10; 5:8-9). Help me to search Your word to see how trials and affliction have been the experience of every saint of God. Grant, O God, that I will receive Your comfort and wisdom in the midst of my trials. Grant also, dear Lord, that I too will become an instrument of Your peace and healing in the lives of hurting people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
(Information from: https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2020/07/24/Viewer-email-leads-TV-reporter-to-thyroid-cancer-diagnosis/4271595621489/; https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/07/24/wfla-reporter-victoria-price-discovers-cancer-via-viewer-email/)