4 Purposes of Adversity

“Adversity is the diamond dust heaven polishes its jewels with.”

– Robert Leighton

For Our Best

We had a couple who came to give a program at our church showing the work they do with orphans in Africa, which includes telling them about Jesus. Just two days before he and his wife were ready to leave, he had a stroke. He had to cancel the trip. They couldn’t understand why God closed that door for their missionary trip, but then two days later, the man had a heart attack. Imagine if he had gone to Africa and had the stroke and then the heart attack, maybe even on the plane trip over there, and with the lack of medical technology over there, he would have possibly died. The point is, God used that adversity, and even though they couldn’t see why God had them miss the trip at the time, it probably saved his life. That adversity worked out for the longevity of his life and, later, their continuing the ministry after his recovery.

For Our Good

Joseph’s brothers, who at first tried to kill him, ended up selling him into slavery, and for many years they treated him with contempt, but when God later used Joseph through dream interpretation to save Egypt and most of the civilization in the Middle East, Joseph’s brothers found out that Joseph was still alive. Earlier they had lied to their father, Jacob, telling him that Joseph had been killed to cover their deceit and betrayal, but later, when the brothers had to come to Egypt for food to survive, Joseph told the brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20). So God even used evil for everyone’s good, just like adversity is the diamond dust that heaven polishes its jewels with, those jewels being us!

For Our Attention

If God had not literally struck down Saul on the Damascus Road, Saul would have likely continued his terrorizing of the Christians. Saul was so set in his ways that no one could have possibly shared the good news about Christ with him, and if anyone had tried to witness to Saul, he would have probably used that encounter as a reason to have them stoned, flogged, and cast into prison. It took a direct intervention of Jesus and blinding of Saul to humble him and get his attention to where he would hear about Christ. When Paul was blinded for three days, he was utterly helpless and had to depend on the help of others. God sometimes has to do that with us, using adversity to get our attention (like He did me!).

For Our Patience

Here are scriptural reasons why I can say that adversity works for God’s purposes. James wrote, “Count it all joy when ye fall into various temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). The Greek word used for temptations, or as some translations say trials, is “peirasmos,” and it means “an experiment, to test, to prove.” So these trials or tests of our faith work or produce patience. Further, Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Adversity or suffering produces endurance, then character, then hope–all purposed by God.


God never wastes adversity. He uses it to produce patience in us, to get our attention, for our own good, and for our ultimate best. Indeed, adversity is the diamond dust heaven polishes its jewels with. I don’t know about you, but I could use some polishing because I’ve still got some pretty rough edges.