Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

5 Biblical Ways to Turn Adversity into Advantage

  • J.C. Watts Author, Pastor & Former Congressman
  • Updated Mar 21, 2016
5 Biblical Ways to Turn Adversity into Advantage

As a lifelong student of achievement and leadership, I’ve seen five key attributes in the lives of many others for whom hard times or tragedy became not an anchor holding them back but a springboard launching them farther and higher than ever. These attributes are not gifts you’re born with. They’re not talents or personality traits. They are choices. I repeat, they are choices. You can choose to make these attributes part of who you are and how you live. They are learned responses that can be cultivated in the heart and mind of any person.


“I can’t catch a break.”

“It’s like the whole world has it out for me.”

“Everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong.”

“I hate those people, and I’m going to pay them back some day.”

Everyone has experienced truly crushing things in his or her life. But God has so much more in store for you beyond the cul-de-sac of self-pity. There is more He wants to do in you and, more importantly, through you.

When you’re going through something awful, the pain isn’t optional. If it hurts, it hurts. Yet succumbing to the poison of bitterness is a choice. Refusing to drink deeply of that cup is the first step to turning adversity into advancement.


The Twenty-Seventh Psalm is an amazing piece of poetry authored by the future king of Israel, David, when everything seemed to be going against him. He was running for his life from the soldiers and bounty hunters of a deranged king. Accused of things he hadn’t done, he was pursued like a dog from cave to cave, lonely, homesick, and in daily fear for his life. In this dark season, David penned a beautiful song affirming his trust in God and in his eventual vindication, a song that ends,

I would have despaired unless I had believed that

I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart

take courage;

Yes, wait for the Lord.


It’s a fact of human nature that dwelling on the negative rather than the positive eventually affects the way you view everything in your life, and your gloomy outlook becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. King Solomon wrote, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Positive thinking is more than just a slogan. I’ve never known teammates to follow a quarterback who gets in the huddle and says, “I don’t know if we’re good enough to beat these guys.” No, they’re looking for someone that believes they can win and says, “We can and we will beat these guys.”


Paul told the Corinthians: “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step.”

It’s no accident that Paul’s writing is filled with references to athletic contests, for success in sports and success in life both require what the epistle to the Hebrews calls endurance. It’s a quality that goes by a variety of names. I tend to call it determination; it’s indispensable if you’re going to come through a season of trouble, setbacks, or adversity.


Charles Schulz once called humor “the ultimate proof of faith.” It’s true. To laugh when everything is going wrong requires a confidence in something bigger than yourself or your circumstances. The person of faith can laugh when everything is seemingly going wrong because he personally knows a God Who has promised to “work all things together for good.”

There they are—five key attributes that helped me not only survive the toughest test of my life thus far, but to actually thrive going forward. And thrive I did, and so can you. There is a better life waiting, but its price is digging deep. Let’s get started.

Adapted from Dig Deep, the new book by former college quarterback, U.S. congressman, and pastor J.C. Watts. Used with permission. Dig Deep by J.C. Watts is available now from bookstores everywhere.

Publication date: March 21, 2016