“Thank God for dirty dishes – they have a tale to tell;
While other folks go hungry – we’re eating very well.
With home and health and happiness – we shouldn’t want to fuss;
For by this stack of evidence – God is very good to us!”

Another tale is told by these lines: that we will quickly forget how we enjoyed the dinner as we begin to argue about who will wash the dishes.

Prosperity is a great dictator, but a mighty poor teacher. No one learns very much when circumstances are “just right.” Mountaintop times are beautiful but not realistic. They normally are brief and limited. More of our lives are spent down in the battlefield of the valleys. We slug it out day by day – often against the same one we saw in the mirror the morning.

A child, left to him or her own self, will have to learn the essential lessons about life in a most difficult manner for many years after childhood. In the 1940s and 1950s, pediatrician Benjamin Spock advised parents to be permissive with children. His book “Baby and Child Care” instructed that Mom and Dad only speak and never spank. Millions grew up without loving discipline or caring restraint. Their flinty rebellion matured to give us the “me” generation of communal living, rock music, protest marches and anti-American activities. In the early 1970s, Dr. Spock recanted (too late) to say: “Children must be led. They have to be guided, directed, reminded, stopped, warned, corrected … for their own safety, happiness and good character” (Redbook, March 1974).

It is wrong for a book or a motion picture to change the social climate in such a negative way, but that is how it works. People are gullible. They will bite into the shiny fruit on the tree, even if God tells them “no.” Way back in Eden’s garden, there was no sin in the “pear” on the tree, but rather with the “pair” standing beside it. Adversity, then, becomes the blessed schoolmaster in life. None of us wants it, but we all know we require a certain dosage. God prescribes just what we need. If we will agree with Him and accept His sovereignty over us, all will end well. The sooner we do business with God, the better. Lessons unlearned in the moments of childhood will persistently demand submission for decades afterward.

Rebellion against truth is, sadly, often carried right into the grave.

Child abuse is to not receive the necessary limitations in life. It is not Dr. Spock, but rather Almighty God, Who has given us the instruction of life that preserves and protects. The Psalmist remembers: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word” (119:68).

It is so much easier for us to behave when we are given consequences to remember! Verse 71 declares: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted that I might learn thy statutes.” The writer is able to conclude in verse 75: “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”

When the attitude of the heart is right, God is enabled to work in our situation. What He does in our lives will always be for our good, whether we like it or not. God cares so greatly for you and me, that we can have absolute confidence in Him. Peter writes about “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). This holds true every day and in every circumstance.

Jesus Christ alone has the power to reckon out a victory for the child of God, even in the hour of adversity. John writes: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power” (John 1:12). There exists no victory over the events of life outside of Jesus Christ. He was with God, waiting for the beginning to begin in eternity past, and “All things were made by him … without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:2,3). He is our Creator of the visible and the invisible (Colossians 1:16), “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (verse 17).

Thus, the critical question is begged for you and me: “Are we in Christ?” Do we have a moment of time in our lives wherein we determined our decision in favor of Christ and no longer in neutral or reverse? Can we delight in the knowledge that we have truly believed the Bible and received Jesus Christ by faith as our personal Savior? The guarantee is that you will know about it if you have and that you will be ever so glad that you are now “in Christ.”

The stack of dirty dishes can be frowned upon because of the work involved, or they can be appreciated for the blessing they enabled us to enjoy. So it is for many aspects of our lives, such as home, vehicle and personal upkeep. We may frown upon the labor required, but the blessings given are surely enjoyable.

God uses our lack to teach us valuable lessons and thus help us to be more dependent upon Him. King David records in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” When we look back upon our lives, we see that somehow the family was fed and the bills were paid over the years.

Paul writes about the matter involving his personal health in 2 Corinthians 12:9. God had told him: “‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

God is more interested that we trust and believe what He tells us in the Bible than that we possess all the things this world affords. He knows that our Christmas lists are endless and that our true satisfaction can come only by spiritual means. Paul writes of his emotional suffering in 2 Corinthians 1:8 and 9: “We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”

He writes also about the persecutions that the Christian will suffer in this life: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (1 Timothy 3:12).

Our imperfections and tendencies toward evil are perhaps our greatest adversities. It is a wonderful thing that God knows all about us and still is willing to forgive us and restore fellowship to our repentant hearts. James tells us in 1:3 and 4 “that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Our vast insufficiencies point us to the One Who is all-sufficient. It is then that we are enabled to practice “reverse gratitude” – that of being thankful for what we did not have. Thank you, Lord!

R.D. “Bob” Hottle is a retired schoolteacher, farmer and pastor of the Anchor Baptist Church.