COVID-19 (A Christian Manual for Navigating Uncertain Times)

An unseen microscopic viral enemy is bringing the world economy to its knees and taking lives. Whether you believe the worldwide response has been warranted or irresponsible the impact of COVID-19 is tangible and far reaching. Secular and religious organizations alike have been forced to make difficult choices in these uncertain times. Churches are closing their doors to corporate worship and frantically ramping up live stream capabilities. Even now, we just aren’t sure how long this threat will last.

Because this is all so unprecedented and strange (for modern times) there’s not many resources teaching us how to think or react to the events unfolding around us. Godly saints are especially vulnerable during this time of disconnection between one another and pastoral leadership. Opinions abound, but wisdom and common sense are precious, hard to find commodities. Consider this a starter manual for spiritually navigating these uncertain times. This beginner manual will certainly need to be updated and revised over time, and applied to new and changing situations. However, it’s at least a start as we all prayerfully wait on the Lord.

Gathering Still Matters!

While nobly attempting to remain boldly optimistic, many leaders and saints have overblown the impact of having virtual church. This sends mixed messages to people about the continued need for the Church to gather together for corporate worship on a regular basis. Just because we temporarily can’t have church, doesn’t mean we aren’t desperately in need of having church.

To clarify, I’m all for live streaming and getting the Gospel out with every high-tech or low-tech tool available. However, nothing can, should, or will replace the necessity of the assembling of the Church. Beyond that, live streaming isn’t some sparkling new thing that just materialized because of the Corona pandemic. It’s been around for a long time and it can be a great blessing in certain situations. But, it simply cannot compare to what happens when God’s people get together and unify in faith, fellowship, worship, praise, prayer, preaching, and power.

Yes. The Church is not a building. Yes. The Church should be the Church outside of the building. But everyone stuck at home, watching live streaming in their pajamas while eating Lucky Charms, isn’t exactly an epic unleashing of the Church. It’s great to be positive, but let’s not be silly and trivial about the importance of corporate worship.

Trust Your Pastor In Times of Crisis

I’ll echo what many wise folks have already voiced: Your pastor has never pastored in a pandemic before, and he wants what’s best for the church more than anyone else. Pastors are doing their absolute level best to love, protect, and care for their flocks during this crazy and confusing time. They have to answer to God for the decisions they make during this season. They don’t need Monday morning quarter backs criticizing their every decision.

It’s important to note that God may direct one pastor differently than another pastor. Every church has a different dynamic. If you’ve ever trusted your pastor, trust him during this time. If you’ve ever supported your pastor, support him during this time. Your support means more to him than you can imagine. Either you believe your pastor is a God-called under-shepherd over your life or you don’t. Times of crisis reveal the heart; take inventory of your heart in times of crisis.

Speaking of the Heart

If mass social distancing and quarantines have taught me anything, it’s that we have taken too many luxuries for granted. Other nations struggle with hunger, but we feel majorly distressed if we can’t find our favorite brand of coffee creamer. We are, without a doubt, a spoiled people. We are totally unfamiliar with genuine sacrifice or deprivation.

We take our freedoms for granted, including our religious liberties, because we have been too busy and distracted with luxuries. As a nation, we have trended towards less and less church gatherings, and many Christians casually skip church for silly non-essential reasons.

We Americans make plenty of time for the internet, social media, Netflix, and sports; yet we struggle to find time for prayer and spiritual gatherings. This reveals an American heart problem. We are busy doing everything, except for the things that matter the most. Suddenly, when church buildings are temporarily closed our deep need for spiritual connectedness becomes crystal clear.

Many Christians are learning for the first time that sports are little more than a frivolous distraction from reality. We can and should spend more time with our families. Careers aren’t everything and economies and markets are fickle friends that will betray us without warning. Governments can’t save us or even really protect us from every threat. In other words, uncertain times clarify the things that truly matter in our lives. It gives us perspective. And, hopefully a fresh wellspring of gratitude for God and family is bursting into our national consciousness.

The things we care about most are far more fragile than we realize when the busyness of life jerks us from activity to activity. Maybe, just maybe, God is trying to slow us down long enough to remember to keep the main things the main thing. No. I don’t mean that God sent a COVID-19 plague upon the world. However, I do believe God would have us learn lessons in our crisis moments.

Speaking of Crisis Moments

Many people’s finances are being adversely impacted by the quarantines. Jobs are disappearing at staggering rates. Others are enduring layoffs and having their hours slashed. Businesses and small business owners are going under while others are hanging by a thread. If you aren’t being financially effected, you probably know many people who are being effected right now.

With that said, churches still need supported so they can survive this crisis too. If you still have income (be grateful) and be sure to get your tithes to the storehouse of God. Don’t take a vacation from giving God what is already His. That’s a sure way to lose His blessings over your life.

I’ve heard many reports of churches that are unable to pay their regular bills. Newer churches, and smaller to midsize churches in large numbers are facing financial collapse if things don’t change soon. There’s no government bailout for churches. And the church shouldn’t need a government bailout anyway. Let’s just keep being the Church like they were in the book of Acts. If the Early Church could find a way to faithfully give (without the internet) in the middle of literal physical persecution, we can too.

We Always Do Better Under Pressure

God’s true Church has always thrived under pressure. In fact, we seem to spiritually flourish in tough times and become spiritually anemic in times of ease. That was certainly true of the original book of Acts Church, and we see that same phenomenon in the great revivals and spiritual awakenings throughout history. Tremendous apostolic outpourings of the Holy Ghost were poured out during the Great Depression. Those revivals continued to spread even during the first and second World Wars. History is replete with examples of powerful revivals in crisis seasons and spiritual decline in seasons of prosperity. Just look at the reports from economically depressed, and physically oppressed countries outside of the United States. They have constant miracles, church growth, signs, wonders, and spiritual hunger in those regions. Why? Because the Church thrives under pressure and persecution.

But why does the Church thrive under pressure? And, why does the Church seem to struggle with prosperity? I could get very preachy and talk about how the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10), but it’s deeper than just loving money and stuff too much. That’s just part of the overall problem. I think (and I’m preaching to myself), in times of ease we lean to our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) rather than leaning on the Lord. We rely on ourselves more and rely on God less. Essentially, we take God for granted without even meaning to do so. But times of crisis push us back into the arms of Christ. Pressure keeps us razor sharp and keenly focused on God. When we run out of options and resources, we come sheepishly back to our Creator for rescue. And, He rescues us because He loves us with a deep love.

This Will Pass

We’ll move from this valley to a mountaintop, and dip back into another valley. There’s a time and a season for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Perhaps God will teach some of us how to cry out to Him in our distress and face our fears and faithlessness (Mark 4:37-41). Maybe God will show some of us that we can walk on water and overcome the impossible if we keep our eyes fixed on Him (Matthew 14:22-33). How wonderful would it be if the Church rediscovered the power and importance of prayer meetings like the book of Acts Church (Acts 2:1-2, Acts 4:23-24, Acts 12:5-12, Acts 16:25)? The Church can and will continue to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6) in the midst of pressure. However, when the pressure passes, let’s keep the lessons and priorities we have learned close to heart.

Let’s Be Honest – Book Launch

I was honored to write the forward for the book Let’s Be Honest by my friend Jeremy Gove. Rest assured, this is not a trivial subject. In fact, honesty is likely one of the most overlooked and underemphasized aspects of holiness. Jeremy has done a masterful job of weaving the concepts of honesty, truth, righteousness, and holiness into a single tapestry that is comprehensible in a tangible way. 

This book isn’t heavy-handed or condescending, but it is firm and gently convicting. The beginning of each chapter will capture your attention and keep you engaged. Jeremy has a unique capacity to render complicated subjects down into easily understood nuggets of knowledge. Making this book helpful and engrossing for practically every age group. Elders and youth alike will be edified by this work. 

Jeremy is a talented and thoughtful writer. And, I consider him a spiritual thought leader. He works and ministers with excellence and pays close attention to detail. However, what makes him eminently qualified to produce a book on the topic of honesty is his own intrepid integrity. His own noble character gives him the credibility to create this needed resource.

So, read this with your family. Give it to your friends. Give copies to your leadership team. Utilize it in your small group. Walkthrough it in your student gatherings. And, don’t forget to let it speak to your heart too!

Check out Jeremy’s must-read AV article An Echo Experience. Also, be sure to stop by Jeremy’s blog page, which is also a tremendous ministry resource platform at, www.jeremygove.com

Should Christians Dye Their Hair?

I realize many people have never even paused to consider the possibility that God might care about any aspect of our outward appearance. Others, understand that God does mandate a certain criteria of outward holiness disciplines. Most sincere Christians have some level of awareness that God requires us to be modest, maintain gender distinctions, and avoid vanity in our attire. Among apostolics, there are certainly some disagreements regarding how those standards should be applied orthopraxically, but they are generally acknowledged as orthodoxically sound beliefs.

Many generations ago, hair dying was frowned upon and often outright forbidden across denominational lines. There was an almost ecumenical Christian stance against the practice of changing hair color. As with many other standards, over time most denominations and religious affiliations softened or outright reversed their stance on the issue of hair dye.

I grew up in a holiness setting that strictly opposed the use of hair dye. I never had the slightest interest in dying my hair, and really didn’t think much about the issue at all (even though I grew up in the 90’s when guys were obsessed with bleaching their hair). I vaguely remember being mildly surprised as a teenager when I realized there’s no Bible verse that says, “Thou shalt not dye thy hair”. But even with my limited teenage intellect, I knew I didn’t need a “Thou-shalt-not” verse for everything. More often than not, Scripture gives us a principle or a fundamental truth that should be practically applied to every area of our lives. Biblical principles should shape a Christian’s worldview and lifestyle.

Historically, apostolics have contended that our doctrine (orthodoxy) comes before and informs our behavior (orthopraxy). There’s an old saying, “You get what you preach”. Oddly, for many years my denomination has stood against hair dye, yet I can’t remember ever hearing a single sermon about it. I can’t even remember a passing reference to it in a sermon. So, it’s no wonder that hair dying is becoming more and more common, and more and more controversial in holiness circles. In fact, this subject has become one of the most common questions I receive as a pastor and a blogger.

Regardless of your spiritual background or current view, please read with a prayerful and open mind to the Scriptures and principles presented below.

Scriptures Favorable View of Age and Gray Hair

“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary (gray) head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:32).”

The entire book of Leviticus is a call for God’s people to be a holy (separated) people, because we serve a holy God (Leviticus 19:2). The word “holy” is used 152 times in Leviticus. And, while some of Leviticus is strictly ceremonial much of it is just as relevant to daily Christian life as the Ten Commandments. In fact, many of the instructions found in Leviticus give practical guidance for properly obeying the Ten Commandments. For example, Leviticus 19:32 incapsulates a pragmatic way to obey commands number five and ten; “Honor thy father and thy mother… that thy days may be prolonged… (Deuteronomy 5:16)” and “Thou shalt not covet… (Exodus 20:17)”. By respecting elders we automatically honor our aged parents. Interestingly, the fifth commandment is the only commandment with a blessing immediately attached. By respecting our parents (and elders) we access the blessing of prolonged life. If we honor age we will not be tempted to covet our neighbors youthfulness.

Leviticus 19:32 connects the fear (reverence) of the Lord with respect for elders. To despise eldership is to disrespect the “Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9)”. The mandate to stand when an elder approaches as a gesture of respect is still acknowledged in some modern cultures. Tragically, we largely see this level of intentional outward respect being abandoned in American culture. Why? Because, like the ancient Greeks, American culture practically worships youth and beauty. Remember, it was the ancient Greeks who popularized the mythical “Fountain of Youth”. Alexander the Great searched in vain for that mysterious wellspring of eternal youthfulness. Most people spend an astronomical amount of time and money trying to conceal any outward indications of aging. Hair dye, make-up, Botox, liposuction, topical serums, and on and on… all promise to conceal a persons physical “flaws” and convolute their age. The billions of dollars happily paid for those products testify to the extreme vanity of our society.

When a person intentionally conceals their age they practice deception, reveal inward vanity, disrespect elders, and deprive younger generations of the ability to give that person the honor they deserve.

In one of Aesop’s fables, a man with black hair mixed with gray had two lovers, one old and one young. The old one wanted him to look old as well so she pulled out his black hair, while the young one wanted him to look youthful and pulled out his gray hair. As a result, he was left completely bald. Many humorous observations and morals have been attributed to this fable, but it certainly illustrates the societal pressure to resist aging. But age is relentless and it just can’t be denied in the end.

Biblically speaking, gray hair is an honored outward symbol of wisdom and maturity. Certain realms of wisdom can only be acquired by experience, and by enduring trials that strip away the immaturity and naivety of youth. Artificially changing that gray hair (the sign of old age and experience) is a denial of the primary process by which wisdom is obtained.

Furthermore, masking God-given gray hair includes a rejection of the responsibility that is required by age and wisdom. In other words, some people never grew in wisdom, therefore they want their appearance to match the level of their maturity. Since they refuse to stop acting young, they want their appearance to match how they behave. This is dishonesty to self. When they look in the mirror at their dyed hair, it makes them feel better. Why? Because they hide the truth from themselves. However, it actually has the reverse effect. Dyed hair typically makes its wearer look synthetic and even older than the age they are trying to deny.

“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness (Proverbs 16:31).”

Gray hair, in the eyes of God, is a crown of glory. To be righteous and silver haired is a God given privilege. Just living long enough to acquire a single strand of gray hair is a blessing that should never be taken for granted.

The person who dyes their hair has chosen to please the eyes of men rather than the eyes of God. They disrespected their own dignity and tossed aside God’s blessing. Again, this reveals a heart of vanity and pride that has spurned honor and humility.

Why are these scriptures even in the Bible? If nothing else, it teaches us that God likes righteous people with gray hair. Of course, it means more than just that, however, even if that was all it revealed that should be enough to give us pause before changing our natural hair color. Even more simplistically, changing hair color is like telling God he didn’t do a good job.

What else is a crown of glory in scripture?

That’s an important question considering we know that gray hair is a crown of glory. Jesus Christ himself is a crown of glory for His people (Isaiah 28:5). Jesus Christ is a crown of glory to God (Isaiah 62:3). Remember, there was nothing about Jesus that was beautiful in the eyes of men (Isaiah 53:2). Yet, what was ugly in the eyes of men was beautiful to God.

It’s critically important to remember that God’s definition and standard of beauty is often counterintuitive to us because we live in a corrupted carnal world. God fearing people must always be wary of allowing the culture to dictate and define beauty for them. Here’s another verse that gives us insight into what God considers beautiful:

“The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head (Proverbs 20:29).”

Once again, Scripture emphasizes God’s standard of beauty: Age and wisdom are desirable things that should clothe us with dignity. To reject that symbol is to reject God’s design for our lives.

“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away (1 Peter 5:4).”

We receive a natural crown of glory (gray hair) through the process of old age and righteousness (Proverbs 16:31). We will receive a spiritual crown of glory when Jesus comes for His people. Righteous people with gray hair are a prophetic symbol of righteous people with their eternal crown. People who dye their hair break this symbolism in their attempt to deny reality.

Modern Promotion of Hair Dye

The New Yorker has a fascinating article by Malcolm Gladwell entitled, True Colors: Hair Dye and the Hidden History of Postwar America. It’s a lengthy read, but worth your time, if you care to understand the original psychological mindset behind hair dye. It’s no secret that the now, multi-billion-dollar hair dye industry, first blossomed by promoting the reimagining (or reinventing) of self. The psychology of hair dye for women emerged like a rebellious monster from postwar feminism. Hair dye has become synonymous with vanity, sinful lifestyle changes, sensuality, sexuality, and dissatisfaction with God’s original artistry.

Statistics indicate that a whopping 75% of American women dye their hair, while only about 11% of American men use hair dye. Those remarkable statistics give deep insights into the hyper sexualized and fantasy induced psyche of the average American woman. On average, women feel deeply dissatisfied with their natural appearance. That’s a genuine tragedy with dangerous implications. The unstoppable rise of social media has only added to this ongoing problem. It would be extremely difficult to deny that the drastic rise of female depression and suicide is directly linked to the unrealistic expectations of so-called beauty our culture places on women (and young girls too).

Hair dye is just one aspect of the overall pressure that women feel to cover their “flaws” or “enhance” their beauty. Of course, this is largely because men and the media have objectified women ad nauseam. Also, many women place these unreal expectations on other women as well. Society places overwhelming pressure on women to synthesize their appearance in the name of fashion and beauty. These standards of beauty are incompatible with God’s standards of holiness.

“O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness… (Psalm 96:9)”.

Holiness is beautiful! God created every individual with unique beauty. To reject holiness and God’s artistry is an insult to God. Furthermore, men who do not view godly women as beautiful are carnal and corrupted by the cheap enticements of the world. Women who despise holiness are held captive by crushing societal peer pressure and/or their own inward vanity. It’s important to understand the duality of motives for synthesizing appearance; some women synthesize to fit in (peer pressure), while some synthesize to stand out (vanity). Both motives are highly problematic for differing reasons.

To be sure, men struggle in these areas as well. However, in the context of hair dye (and other body modifications) men feel less pressure and don’t battle these temptations nearly as often as women do. For men and women, God desires us to be free from the shackles of envy, pride, vanity, objectification, insecurity, shame, and worldly expectations.

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made… (Psalm 139:14)”.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ (1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV)”.

Practical Objections to Hair Dye

Hair dying is a chemical process. Almost all hair dye requires bleaching before color is added. Typically, ammonia is used which causes terrible (sometimes irreparable) damage to hair follicles. Ironically, many people who avoid chemicals in every other area of life, infuse their hair with harsh chemicals on a regular basis.

Now, because of vanity and/or peer pressure, many people have violated another area of holiness, the significance of hair as a spiritual covering (1 Corinthians 11:3-16). Damaging the hair, which is tremendously spiritually important to God, demonstrates a callousness towards God’s natural order. We would never risk damaging something so spiritually precious unless: One, we don’t have a true revelation of the spiritual significance of hair. Two, we are blinded by vanity (or worldly pressure) and don’t care about things that matter to God.

Furthermore, studies are indicating more and more frequently that hair dye is directly linked to cancer. Especially among women, which makes sense because women use hair dye far more exclusively than men. Most effective hair dyes contain carcinogens, which are known to be cancer causing. Increasingly, health experts are trying to steer women clear of hair dye. Notably, many doctors encourage pregnant women to discontinue the use of hair dye during pregnancy. The dangers of long term hair dye use are known, but mostly ignored by a culture obsessed with outward vanity.

The Biblical View of Vanity

The word vanity pops up a lot when talking about any form of outward holiness. Vanity is one of those catch all words that people throw around without fully understanding what it means. Biblically, it has a spectrum of meanings that can be used differently in a variety of situations. In essence, the Bible gives lots of instructions on how to think about ourselves inwardly, and that inward transformation will always be outwardly visible (clothing, body language, conversation, actions, ethics, morals, integrity, social interaction).

“Favor [is] deceitful, and beauty [is] vain: [but] a woman [that] feareth the LORD, she shall be praised (Proverbs 31:30)”.

Proverbs 31 gives the biblical template of a godly virtuous woman. In this God ordained description of ideal femininity the focus is not on outward vanities. Instead, the emphasis is placed on the condition of her heart and her relationship with God.

Here vanity means, empty pleasure; vain pursuit; idle show; unsubstantial activity. Vanity is ostentatious, arrogance, and outward showiness. Vanity is the inflation of the mind; empty pride, inspired by conceit and manifested by the flaunting of personal decorations. Vanity is haughty, gaudy, and relishes in drawing attention to self.

“For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error (2 Peter 2:18).”

In the middle of Peter’s long rebuke and description of false prophets he mentions their “great swelling words of vanity”. False prophets use vain words to appeal to people’s baser instincts of carnal vanity. Vain words appeal to our lustful and vain sinful nature. This kind of preaching and thinking leads people back into the captivity of sin.

“And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them (2 Kings 17:15).”

The Bible chronicles the frequent backsliding and restoration of the Israelites. The Israelites followed empty vain things and they became empty and vain. Empty vanity lays the groundwork for deeper and deeper sins. As they imitated the heathens around them they became more and more debauched in their thinking and actions. All of this started because they ignored the warnings of their elders and ancestors. Vain thinking always leads to sin and sorrow.

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory… (Philippians 2:3)”.

That word “vainglory” would probably be best translated in a modern context as “empty (or vain) conceit”. Hair dye falls into the category of empty conceit.

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:24-26).”

Galatians chapter five lists the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which includes meekness, another word that is important for inward and outward holiness. Spirit filled believers are mandated to crucify the affections and lusts of the flesh. We are to walk in the Spirit rather than the desires of the flesh. Spirit led Christians do not desire “vain glory”. Meaning, they aren’t conceited, and because they aren’t conceited they aren’t envious of one another. By avoiding vanity Christians keep themselves from envy, and they don’t provoke others to envy them either.

Biblical Instruction Concerning Outward Adornment

“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and discreetly in proper clothing, not with [elaborately] braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but instead adorned by good deeds [helping others], as is proper for women who profess to worship God (1 Timothy 2:9-10, Amplified),”

Here, in Paul’s first letter to Timothy he gives instructions for a godly woman’s outward appearance. There’s a lot to unpack in just those two verses, but for this study there are two relevant focuses: Discreet adornment and the forbidding of hair decorations (a woman’s glory). These principles should be taken into consideration when considering whether hair dye is an appropriate option in God’s eyes.

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV).”

Peter’s first epistle echoes Paul’s apostolic commands regarding a godly woman’s adorning. If nothing else, these passages remind us that apostolic women of faith should allow their beauty to radiate from within. Synthetic, vain, ostentatious outward attempts to change God-given beauty originates from a godless dissatisfaction with the original Creator’s design. True beauty comes from a godly spirit. Every attempt to cover the master strokes of our great Creator result in a shallowness that ultimately creates an inward emptiness.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, Christians should refrain from dying their hair because it violates several Scriptural principles. Hair dye is a rejection of God’s chosen symbol of righteousness, wisdom, dignity, and honor. Hair dye is an affront to God’s artistry and a rejection of His design. Hair dye endangers the health of a woman’s spiritual covering. Hair dye may very well endanger an individuals physical health. Hair dye is rooted in a history of rebellion and carnality. Hair dye is intrinsically vain. And, hair dye is not consistent with the godly outward adornment mandated in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-4

“Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black (Matthew 5:36)”

Obviously this verse is not dealing with the issue of dyeing the hair. However, it is a startling revelation of the absence of hair dye in Jewish culture. I find it unlikely that Jesus would ever have said this if it was common practice to dye the hair black. It seems consistent with Scripture that the apostles and prophets of old would firmly oppose the ostentatious use of hair dye. As modern apostolics, I believe we should lovingly oppose it as well.

Huge thanks to my dear friend, Pastor Joe Campetella, for contributing to this article. His research and spiritual insight was crucial to me during the process of writing and reflection.

Relevant Links

TRUE COLORS: Hair Dye and the Hidden History of Postwar America by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

Are Hair Dyes Safe? by Ronnie Cohen, The Washington Post

Study links hair dye and hair straighteners to higher breast cancer risk, especially among black women by Scottie Andrew, CNN

Hair dye and chemical straightener use and breast cancer risk in large percentages of U.S. population of black and white women by Carolyn E. Eberle, Dale P. Sandler, Kyla W. Taylor, Alexandra J. White, International Journal of Cancer

Hair Dye: A History by Rebecca Guenard, The Atlantic

Concerns About Hair Dye, National Capital Poison Center

Do or Dye: Why women daren’t go grey (unless they’re very brave or very young) by Karen Kay, The Guardian

The Adversity Advantage

I don’t like adversity! I like things to go as planned. I like all the ducks to be in nice neat little orderly rows. My heart sinks when adversity comes because my gut reaction is to assume that adversity is always a gigantic disadvantage. We don’t want to be the underdog or feel like we picked the short straw in life.

Sadly, by viewing adversity as a tremendous negative we often create self-fulfilling prophecies. We lose because we think we’re going to lose. We fail because we think adversaries have the advantage. In reality, the reverse is true. Adversity can be a tremendous advantage in life. I know it sounds crazy, but adversity can actually be the catalyst for your greatest achievements. Lots of anxiety can be avoided by simply recalibrating the way we think about, and react to, adversity.

Adversity serves to sharpen and reveal what was already inside of you in the first place. If you are faithless, adversity pushes that to the surface. If you are fearful, adversity pushes that to the surface. If you lack integrity, adversity reveals it.

If you are strong, adversity reveals strengths you didn’t even know you had. If you are anointed, adversity forces you to dig deep into wells you didn’t know existed. If you are prayerful, adversity takes you to places in prayer you did not know were possible. For example, Gideon didn’t know he was a mighty man of valor until adversity combined with the voice of God revealed what was already inside of him (Judges 6:12).

People don’t backslide because of adversity. They backslide because adversity revealed their heart. People aren’t anointed because of adversity. Adversity just reveals what was already on them.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Gladwell makes several observations about the biblical account of David’s victory over Goliath. He points out that most readers have understandably incorrect misconceptions about David’s underdog status in that conflict. Yes. Goliath was bigger, and stronger, and heavily armed with powerful conventional weapons. Certainly, Goliath was intimidating and imposing; he had the appearance of advantage. However, any modern battle strategist would tell you that being light, fast, mobile, and having a long-range weapon constitutes a distinct advantage over a big, slow, cumbersome opponent carrying a close range weapon. David was viewed as the underdog, but in a modern context he would likely be considered the favorite in that fight.

Gladwell misses a crucial point in his book, a point that makes all the difference. While it’s true that David might not have been quite the underdog most people considered him to be, he was only equipped for that victory because of the adversity God had allowed in his life while tending his father’s sheep. In other words, God was preparing him for victory with every season of difficulty he endured. Every adversity God allows you to endure prepares you for a greater victory in the future.

It’s hard in the difficult moments to see Goliath as anything but terrible adversity. But, adversity (Goliath) is really a God given opportunity. David only escaped the obscurity of tending sheep by successfully facing off against adversity. He was equipped for Goliath because of precious adversities (killing the lion and the bear). His life was forever changed for the good because of adversity. That trial wasn’t his last trial, but it was the trial that opened the door for continued opportunity and growth as a leader and a man of God.

If you’re facing giants, be encouraged, good things ultimately come from adversity if you depend on the Lord to give you victory.