I have a thousand pictures of my late wife. Looking through them brings me comfort and often I post a few on Facebook, a way to remember her. Even as I do, I smile, knowing that she would protest if she were still alive. “Jerry, don’t post that one. I look … “ and she would make some objection about her hair, or her clothing, or the look on her face. Despite being a beautiful woman and quite photogenic, she generally disliked when I pointed the camera in her direction. Of course, being a tease, I did it often and now I am very thankful I did!
What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you wish you were taller, thinner, more hair? We are our own worst critics, aren’t we?
Let’s shift the thought to the inner person. Most likely there is some trait, habit, or characteristic that you see as a flaw. Maybe it’s your temper, or the hard time you have in crowds. Perhaps it is a tendency to be fearful or full of doubt. Perhaps it is a struggle with addiction. Or, it might be regret for some major failure, now long in the past that keeps dogging you right to this moment. You have likely prayed to be changed, healed, delivered… right?
It is good to ask our Abba (Father) for His help, His power – but often He asks us to walk with a limp! (More on that in a moment.) Sometimes He chooses not wipe away our ‘flaws.’ Instead, He invites us to trust Him in the middle of our messes. I have found that it is often the things we hate most about ourselves that tend to drive us to seek Him and that keep us faithful to Him. Indeed, my greatest ministry opportunities have grown out of my experience of His grace in those things I consider unpleasant!
At that very point of ‘weakness’ God has an opening into your life to do His greatest work in you and through you.
I asked a friend who’s been struggling through a severe time of testing recently, “How’s are you doing?” I wasn’t just being polite. I’ve prayed for him regularly and trusted God with him for freedom. His reply showed amazing spiritual insight. I’ll paraphrase his reply — “Jerry, God’s presence is nearer to me now and I am discovering so many new things.” As we talked for a few moments, he told me how he still wants to be healed, but that he is much more ready to trust how God works in the middle of the problem, too!
Paul was extraordinarily used of God. Because of his gifts, he was subject to pride, which could have destroyed him so the Lord gave him another ‘gift,’ that kept him God-aware and Spirit-reliant. Here’s what he told us about that: “I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NLT)
It is useless to speculate over Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ (NIV) but whatever it was, he disliked it enough to pray long and hard for healing. God said, “No! That thing is my gift to you to keep you leaning hard on my grace, not yourself.” Suffering, as much as we hate it, can be God’s leash that keeps us from running headlong into soul destroying situations.
Remember Jacob, the patriarch in Genesis? He wrestled with a heavenly messenger at the ford of Jabbok all night long. The encounter left him a changed man and limping! His limp reminded him of God’s Presence!
Human pride is such that we tend to create self-serving myths about our self- sufficiency, our ‘deserving-ness,’ our abilities. This is a temptation that takes hold of us when our bank account is full, when our health is good, when our kids are earning honors, and when no life-controlling sin is apparent. While we may not actually utter the prayer of the Pharisee, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican” (Luke 18:11 KJV) but we easily slip into thinking something like it, don’t we? In success and honor we can begin to believe our press releases and think – “What a good guy I am. Isn’t the Lord lucky that I am on His team? God must surely bless me with more because I deserve it.”
Self-righteousness stinks. It robs us of compassion. It ruins our relationship with God.
It turns the fragrance of Christ’s grace into the stench of human religiosity. It turns us from child-like prayers of faith, to manipulative schemes to get our own way. It turns us into harsh judges who readily condemn others. “Why can’t they just get it right?” with the implied clause, “just like me.” We lack grace both inwardly and outwardly.
Go back to that thing in your life you would like to be rid of, that makes you feel pain, that drives you to your knees. Prayerfully consider, with the help and insight of the Spirit, whether God is giving you a ‘gift’ to keep you close to Him. Thank Him that He is greater than your weakness and present Him with your ‘problem,’ inviting Him to remove it or use it — in keeping with His eternal purposes. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” As you discover more about Jesus and His wonderful love for you, watch His joy begin to fill your heart and mind.
Ponder this word from the Word. Really pray it through. Match His mercy to your pain. Let Him shine through the cracks of your life. “Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us.“ (2 Corinthians 4:5-12, The Message)
Days when you don’t have the strength
Wondering if you ever could be loved,
If they ever truly saw your heart
They’d see too much
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful,
You are made so much more than all of this.
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful,
You are treasured, You are sacred, You are His.
I’m praying that you have the heart to find
‘Cause you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you’ve held inside so long
And they are nothing in the shadow of the cross
Before you ever took a breath
Long the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed
There was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above
You’re the one He madly loves
Enough to die!
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
In His eyes!