I haven’t written a post on this blog for almost a month.
I don’t want to go into too much detail, but some health problems have made it difficult for me to focus and write. It’s been a trial. Frankly, it’s been depressing at times. I have so many cool things I want to share. But I’m realizing something valuable through this process.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul experienced a “thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know exactly what it was, but it’s clear that God allowed him to suffer this thorn because he had received great truth and wisdom from God. The Father, in His mercy, used this thorn to keep Paul humble.
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul didn’t like suffering, just like I don’t like suffering. And while I don’t claim to have a level of revelation from God anywhere near the level Paul did, I still struggle with thinking somehow God’s work through me has something to do with me. This weakness I feel, this health problem I face, has reduced me to a level where I’m totally dependent on God’s grace.
And like Paul, I’m realizing that suffering isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing. If it get’s me out of the way, then suffering is the best thing that could possibly happen to me. But it goes far beyond just being thankful for suffering.
In the Garden of Eden, God’s intention for man was to walk in communion with Him, totally dependent upon Him. My friend Jeremiah Beck shared something with me the other night that I think is profound. He reminded me that part of the punishment for man’s sin was independence. God said “From now on, you’re on your own. You work for what you get. It’s by the sweat of your brow that you’ll survive.”
Did you hear that?
Independence and self-reliance is punishment. I know that sounds like heresy in a culture that idolizes the self-made man and lauds those who pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
When Christ uttered the words “It is finished” on the cross, he made it possible for me to return to the garden. The separation from God was finished. My estrangement from the Father was finished. My need to strive and work and sweat to survive was finished. Yet, in spite of this work of total redemption, of Christ returning me to the communion of the Garden, I am often tempted to think it still all depends on me. It’s a habit that I find exceptionally hard to break.
The Apostle Paul struggled with it, you struggle with it, and I certainly struggle with it. That lure of myself, of thinking I’m still on my own. The temptation to think I have something to do with God’s work in me.
And if it takes sickness or hardship or loss to pull me kicking and screaming back to that place of total dependence upon God, then I should be grateful for it.
Every pain, every moment of frustration is getting me a step closer to the Garden.