Ordained Opposition

If you are among the living on planet earth, chances are that, at some point in your life, you have faced opposition to accomplishing goals that you believed to be noble.

Perhaps you were promoted or assigned a task at work and have had a difficult time completing it, owing to uncooperative co-workers. Or maybe you are facing difficulty making positive changes at home because of an unwilling spouse or disorderly children. Possibly you have a vision of uplifting your community, but at every turn, you face discouragement and setbacks. Perhaps an unforeseen illness or death of a loved one has thrown you off track from meeting your goals.  Or how about this – you tell a friend about a business idea only to have them distance themselves from you or worse yet, steal your idea. Your source of opposition could be anyone one at any time –family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, enemies seen and unseen, fellow congregants at church, and so on.

If you haven’t ever dealt with this problem, give it time. The higher you try to climb and the more you attempt to effect change, the more opposition you are likely to face. On the surface, this opposition seems to make no sense. You are after all, trying to do something virtuous and one would think that you would get the full support of those around you. But this is often not the case. Many a lofty goal has been sidetracked by roadblocks placed in the way.

When facing opposition, the typical person tries to eliminate this source of frustration in any way that they can. Some attempt to “win over” the opposition, others try to fight against it, many choose to ignore it outwardly while allowing it to rattle them internally. Still others resort to praying it away. But have you ever stopped to think that perhaps the opposition is ordained? Could it be that the opposition is all part of the plan in the grander scheme of things? Should we pay attention to opposition rather than rally against it?

Before you accuse me of going off my rocker, consider the case of the biblical character Joseph. Here was a guy whose only crime was having a vision of leadership. His brothers hated him because he was his father’s favorite and because he had the audacity to believe that he would one day rule over them. Even his beloved father rebuked him for having such a notion. His brothers conspired against him initially, planning to kill him before settling on throwing him into a ditch and selling him into slavery. While in captivity, Joseph faced false accusations and years of being forgotten in prison before his vision came to pass.

Here’s the thing. He was clearly ordained by God to save an entire nation and, by extension, save his family which later became the nation of Israel. While he never lost faith, there must have been times during the 13 years from the pit to the palace when Joseph questioned why this was all happening to him. And yet, had he not faced the opposition from his brothers, he would not have ended up as Pharaoh’s governor and would not have later saved their lives.

There are many other accounts in the Bible of people facing tremendous opposition as part of the plan to a higher purpose. Queen Esther; Samson; Nehemiah; the Apostle Paul; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; David, even the Lord Jesus Himself are prime examples. In every case, the opposition they faced was ordained.

The late actress Audrey Hepburn comes to mind as a secular example. The British actress, model, and humanitarian dreamt of being a dancer as a child and studied ballet with some of the greats. However, she and her family were severely affected by the Dutch famine during Germany’s occupation of Holland in World War II, so much so that Audrey developed acute anemia, respiratory problems and edema as a result of malnutrition. Her dreams of becoming a dancer were shot, and she turned to acting instead. Hepburn went on to become an A-list actress, starring in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi; playing the lead role in Roman Holiday, for which she was the first actress to win an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA Award for a single performance; winning a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play for her performance in Ondine; and starring in a number of successful films such as Sabrina, The Nun’s Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, My Fair Lady, and Wait Until Dark, for which she received Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA nominations. She remains one of only 12 people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.

However, in 1988, she took on what she described as the greatest role of her career – that of UNICEF Goodwill ambassador.

“I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II,” said the actress on her appointment.

Her first field mission was to Ethiopia where years of drought and civil strife had caused terrible famine. She visited an orphanage in Mek’ele that housed 500 starving children and had UNICEF send food. Of the trip, she said,

“I have a broken heart. I feel desperate. I can’t stand the idea that two million people are in imminent danger of starving to death, many of them children, [and] not because there isn’t tons of food sitting in the northern port of Shoa. It can’t be distributed. Last spring, Red Cross and UNICEF workers were ordered out of the northern provinces because of two simultaneous civil wars… I went into rebel country and saw mothers and their children who had walked for ten days, even three weeks, looking for food, settling onto the desert floor into makeshift camps where they may die. Horrible. That image is too much for me. The ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering.”

After visiting UNICEF emergency operations, Hepburn used her celebrity profile for good, talking about the projects to the media in the United States, Canada and Europe over several weeks, giving as many as 15 interviews a day.  Finally, because of her deeply emotional lobbying, the world could no longer turn a blind eye to what was happening in Ethiopia and much needed attention and relief was directed its way. Hepburn’s commitment to children never wavered. In the following years she visited a polio vaccine project in Turkey and programs for disadvantaged children and women across South America. She saw schools in Bangladesh, projects for children in poverty in Thailand, nutrition projects in Viet Nam and camps for displaced children in Sudan. Through all her work, Hepburn’s message was clear:

“There is just no question that there is a moral obligation for those who have, to give to those who have nothing.”

Her experience of starvation as a child caused her to forfeit her dreams of becoming a professional dancer, and yet it would be the very thing that made her such an impactful Goodwill Ambassador for the organization that helped to save her life during that difficult time.

“Opposition is not only an evidence that God is blessing, but it is also an opportunity for us to grow.”

~ Warren Wiersbe

The bottom line is, opportunity equals opposition, and one of the tests of an overcomer is how we handle it. Our lives are like a woven garment. There is no occurrence, whether good or bad, that does not contribute to the fabric of our lives. It is all interconnected in some way.

Opposition although uncomfortable, is often the rudder that directs us along the path that we should be taking. If things are not going as planned and if you have done all you can to make it right, then perhaps it is time to let go and accept that the opposition you face may be ordained for a higher purpose.

They say hindsight is 20/20.

Trust and know that it will all be revealed in the end.