2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Next month, It will be 14 years since I was baptised. I have never been faithful to anything or anyone for that long, and it’s truly God’s amazing grace that has kept me going.
I can relate to Paul in 2 Cor 12, as he begged God to take the thorn away. Because I naturally hate any sort of pain. In fact, prior to becoming a disciple I made it my ambition to avoid any pain at all!
Growing up in a very white Australia during the 70s, i tried to blend in even though I felt very different being half Vietnamese and British… In school I avoided the pain of failure by giving up before I failed in sports or academics, In relationships I avoided rejection by never fully giving my heart again after my first boyfriend broke up with me,..and I avoided feeling the pain of a broken heart by turning to alcohol and drugs to numb the despair of growing up in an abusive family.
Sadly drinking and using drugs like marijuana became a 15 year habit that helped numb the painful feelings of loneliness, shame, sadness, disappointment, insecurity, uncertainty, and fear that plagued me.
By the time I studied the word of God I was 30 years old, but emotionally I was still a child without true character. I thank God that the Bible is truly living and active….and God exposed the condition of my heart.
As I studied the Bible the cravings for impurity and drugs and alcohol ceased and I started to gain understanding. I saw myself in stark reality for the first time and even though it was ugly and very painful, the CROSS offered the HOPE of a new life. It didn’t offer a painless life, in fact to my dismay Jesus’ life exemplifies pain and an amazing courage to face pain in the face! To me this is the call of the Cross. To obey God, to trust God’s goodness in light of pain, suffering and death. For this is what brings glory to a God.
Certainly over the years I’ve become more comfortable with pain due in large to the lessons learned though a very long and painful labour with my first child Michael. God showed me how to deal with pain through an incredible midwife who took the time to coach me through the fear of giving birth. She was concerned that after many hours of pushing my son wasn’t leaving his comfy home. She said I didn’t have a choice to not go through with having this baby and I needed to visualise pain as a doorway. I couldn’t not go through it but had to decide to brace myself, face my deepest fears (of the unknown) and go through the other side. Thanks to her I made it to the other side and had a beautiful gift of a healthy 9lb baby boy. Surely His Word speaks of a mother’s heart – “It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world.” John 16:21 (NLT)
Praise God, on the other side of that suffering was the joy of “a new baby into the world”.
I know down deep that no matter what happens God is true and faithful to his word. His GRACE is sufficient, ENOUGH, and that in those painful and weak moments I can trust that God will never leave me, and his love and GRACE will make me strong enough to endure it.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.