I've been the recipient of a lot of grace-filled notes, emails, messages and hugs this week. I am both helped and horrified by the number of women who have shared their personal struggles with anxiety, depression, and other "unseen" illnesses. How is it that so very, very many of us are out there walking around like this?
My friend, if you've ever doubted that we are not all broken people, every last one of us, I encourage you to come out and share your brokenness, and the floodgates will open. It's an epidemic. Our world is so fallen, so full of hurt...so in need of a Savior.
The apostle Paul wrote of a "thorn in the flesh," some sort of physical ailment that plagued him persistently and would not be healed. No one knows what sort of malady it was, although they make guesses. But I think that, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the illness was purposefully left unnamed. Because if it was named, we'd focus on that instead of on how Paul reacted to this painful, ongoing problem of the body.
If God makes absolutely zero mistakes--which He can not, in order to indeed be the God He claims He is--then even a tiny detail like an illness unspecified is for a reason.
Instead, we can turn our attention to how the godly can suffer greatly, and still find a grace-filled path forward.
We can see an example of how someone could beg for deliverance that was not granted, and still have a Biblical attitude towards God.
Because Christians don't get any special "pass," you know. We don't accept what Jesus did for us on the cross and then magically get a smooth, painless life from there on out. The only difference between Christians and non-believers during suffering is that we know from God's word that He is still in control no matter what and He works everything together for good for His children. That gives us a hope that doesn't depend on circumstances.
I am physically weak right now, more so than I've ever been. My "thorn in the flesh" has definitely gotten worse before it gets better, as predicted. My good days are great, but the bad days are very low. Even as I am working on a second stab at this blog post, I am finding mistakes that my weary brain never spotted in the first draft. Every once in a while it really comes home to me that I am really not a well woman at the moment. I would really like this to be over.
But... "He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”
This is what Paul wrote immediately after he shared about his biggest, most private, most torturous problem. He doesn't leave us hanging there without hope. He shares this huge ol' secret burden and then shares the trick to how he has managed to keep going.
I don't know about you, but I really like it when someone shares how they did something. I'm a DIY fan, and I see amazing projects all over the place. But not every one shares their instructions, and that can be frustrating. Paul leaves us with zero doubt about how he got through this.
GOD is doing the getting-through-ness. Not Paul. Not me.
It is GOD Whose grace is sufficient. It is GOD Whose power is perfected in the weak spots.
The trick is welcoming the weakness. Being close enough to God, knowing enough about His sovereign perfection, and allowing that truth to inform my soul enough that I am able to welcome what He has allowed into my life as being something that He will use for my good. Not just enduring. Welcoming is an entirely different matter.
A wise friend once shared with me, "You know you've finally learned the lesson of a thing when you have arrived at the point where you can not only thank Him for bringing you through it, but actually be thankful that it happened. Because you've come through the other side and you can finally see that it was all for His glory.
I don't know about you, but there are precious few trials in my life that I have reached this stage with. I have had a few hiccups in life by this stage in the game, and it's still unthinkable to me that I will someday be glad that some of those things happened. But that's where I'm headed. Because I have purposed in my heart that I will take God at His Word, praise Him as sovereign and only-good, declare His works before men....and welcome the weakness when it inevitably comes.
Father God, in Whom we live and move and have our being, I humbly ask You to reveal Your purposes in my life as You see fit. Give me patience and grace to wait and trust when I must needs be left in the darkness a while. Cause my tiny mustard-seed faith to grow and thrive under trials, so that my responses to the ups and downs increasingly mirror Christ. May my praise to my Creator be sung just as loudly to an audience of one as to one hundred. Be glorified in my life, Lord.