There is a value in GOD’s economy that flies in the face of human nature in general, but particularly American humans! That value of GOD’s is bringing strength from weakness. As humans and Americans, we have NO desire to be weak in any way! Our American mantra is to be proud of the way we independently have pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps and made something of ourselves. Stories of those who have been able to do that are very popular and heartwarming. But in real life, that rarely happens. Someone, somewhere usually has to help us…even if only to offer encouraging words along the way, or to take a chance on us and give us a job when we were under-qualified.
Why is it so difficult to admit we need help? Two year olds and adults seem to have the same problem!
But in GOD’s economy, in order to receive GOD’s gift of grace, we must acknowledge our need. We have to recognize and admit to GOD that we are unable to meet His righteous demands for us. We aren’t good enough or able enough to obey the great commandments: You shall love the Lord your GOD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (The summary of the 10 Commandments.)
We are bankrupt spiritually and even worse, we are dead spiritually and not able to help ourselves. The Holy Spirit has to do a work in us to help us want to change and to open our eyes to see our total need.
Even after the change that comes when we realize our need for GOD to change our hearts and bring about a spiritual birth as He brings new life to our souls, we need the work He does after that point to change us to be more like Him. Something commonly called the process of sanctification.
One important tool GOD uses to to bring change in our lives is suffering.
He uses many things to bring about that change. One tool is suffering. That takes place on a variety of levels. Sometimes, it comes in an obvious circumstance of suffering such as a serious illness or death of a loved one. It may also come in the form of illness for ourselves. Or it may come in the form of job losses, financial reversals, etc. There are other less obvious forms of suffering.
Some people struggle with anxiety. There are ways to mitigate some aspects of it, but it may be struggle that will last their whole life. That really falls into a category of suffering. The same goes for certain forms of depression and other mental disorders that are brought on because of chemical imbalances in your brain. Medication, prayer and counseling can help, but there will always be suffering that goes with these disorders. I think you understand what I’m talking about.
On occasion, GOD completely heals people of these disorders, but it doesn’t happen often. The passage below describes the experience of most of us…it is called having a thorn in the flesh. It is something that causes us to be weak. But through that weakness, we learn to depend on GOD for His strength and see His power in ways we never would without having this area of weakness. If this was the experience of the apostle Paul, I don’t think we should expect our experience to be any different. We can ask GOD to completely heal us just as Paul did, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean we are second class Christians. GOD has His own purposes in each answer.
On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses—
though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth;
but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,
a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
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.
II Corinthians 12:5-10 ESV
The good thing about weakness and suffering is that it shows us how much we need Jesus.
The thing about weakness and suffering is that that it shows us how much we need Jesus. Whether we are dealing with sin that we can’t seem to be victorious over, unforgiveness in our relationships, or obvious suffering in our lives, we need to see that suffering and the weakness that comes with it a gift. Anything that pushes us to lean more on Jesus is just that — a huge gift. It gives us a new perspective that we need as part of the human race or we need GOD’s help to be able to live well with that suffering. We need to have experienced suffering and struggled with GOD about it.
It helps us learn compassion for others as well as to be patient with ourselves in our own weakness. GOD is the only one who doesn’t give up because of weakness. He doesn’t give up on us because of it either. This other passage I want to share today is very encouraging along these lines.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
As you think about your suffering or the suffering of someone close to you, remember these good words…GOD is with you.