This poster is something I found on pinterest recently. What I love about it, other than the verse at the bottom, is all that comes before that verse, is the dire circumstances listed, the great heroes of the Christian faith who were in impossible situations. And if you’ve ever spent anytime in a Sunday school class, you know all about how their stories turned out- as a pretty big deal. I mean, they are called HEROES after all. But I wonder if it felt heroic to them?
I mean, to them, they’re just an ordinary guy with a bad problem, an impossible situation, a big secret maybe. And it probably seemed pretty hopeless. Awful, no good, terribly bad. And they probably felt pretty weak. But then, God’s grace WAS sufficient, just as the verse says. Better yet, his power was made perfect through their awful, no good, terribly bad situation. Through their weakness.
The whole verse in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 says “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” You can see why I’m a little obsessed with this verse lately.
The thing I find so amazing about this verse is that the speaker in it is clearly stuck in some difficult situation he doesn’t want any part of. He asks God to take it away, to remove it, maybe even to heal him miraculously. And then God just says “no.” In fact, God says “heck, no!” Why? Because he isn’t powerful enough to do it? Because he doesn’t like this guy enough to help him out? Because he’s feeling especially lazy that day?
Because he wants us to trust him and only him and then to show off to the world around us what a God we serve.
Apparently, our hardships are not too big for us to handle when we’ve got God around. Apparently, our suffering is manageable when he’s on our team. And apparently, his grace will make us powerful when we are weak, which will be a testimony to bystanders. This man believes God is powerful and God is good and he knows God can take his painful situation away, so he asks for that. Bold move! But God’s response instead is that he won’t remove the problem, he’ll just make you capable of handling the problem as you get close to him.
Sometimes I wonder what I’d be like without this diagnosis. I feel like its already changed so much in such a short amount of time. I wonder what I’d be worrying about, thinking about, obsessing about. I wonder how I’d feel about my faith. I feel so strongly that his grace HAS been sufficient for me precisely when I’ve been weak and that has been a powerful thing. I know why this guy wants to boast about his weakness- its a pretty awesome thing to have God’s power rest on you. He really does take our weakness and make us strong.
Then he says something I find most startling, most provocative of all. He says he is content with hardships. He’s also apparently OK with weakness, insults, persecution and calamities. Even the really tough, ugly stuff is just fine by him.
I don’t really feel that way.
I mean, CONTENT has always been a kind of a dirty word to me. I’ve never been real good at mastering it. One time, in high school, my teacher shared a verse from Psalms with me that talked about God being a loving, protective Shepard and then said “I feel like, when you read that, all you can see are fences keeping you in and a man with a big stick holding you back.” Yep, he nailed it. Being content has never been my strong point. So I find it even more amazing that in the midst of suffering and hardship, he not only has grace, he also has contentment. Peace.
When I was diagnosed, I was careful about what I’d ask for prayer for from others. I asked for peace, for courage, for clarity. I asked that it not hinder my husbands budding quest for God, that it not hurt our relationship, that we be stronger for it. I never asked for healing. It’s not because I didn’t think God was capable of that, of course he is, or because those kind of miraculous healings don’t really happen anymore, I’m sure they could, but more because I didn’t want to get my hopes pinned on that. I didn’t want to fixate on this being taken away just because I didn’t like it, just because it sucked. Somehow I was sure, am surely convinced, that there is a reason for this, a purpose behind it, even if that purpose is just to point out how weak I really am and help me depend on God’s grace the way I really always should have. I was scared of an MS diagnosis, but there was grace for that. I was scared of my injections, but there’s been grace for that. I’m scared of the future, of all the ways I might lose myself and my abilities, but there will be grace for that. Who knows, maybe as I learn to depend on God’s grace more, God’s power might really be a sight to behold in me. Maybe this weakness is exactly what he had in mind. Maybe I should learn to be content too.