Purpose in that Pain

Last Wednesday, in a second, things changed.  I slipped, badly wrenched my knee (still waiting MRI to know extent of damage), and became ‘weak.’  Every step hurts. Simple things like going from standing to sitting require deliberate thought. Getting in and out of the car is complicated as I gently tuck my leg in without bending the knee any more than I have to.  Like most people, it’s not easy to ask for help so I try to do things and find myself either hurting or frustrated. I forgot what a blessing it is to walk quickly, to take steps without pauses, to be without pain. This knee will heal soon and I will return to ‘normal’ but will the experience cause me to be more thankful and make me more patient with those who don’t ‘get better?’

This experience has made me think about the gradual losses that come with aging and caused me to face up to one of my own fears – that I will someday be dependent on others.  Honestly, I am not at peace with either of those things just yet.  I do pray that the Lord will give me faith and love so that as one strength fades another will grow – that even as ‘weakness’ increases there will be a corresponding growth of spiritual beauty that makes me a blessing in my world instead of a bitter or cynical old man.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul responded to the boasts of the ‘super-apostles’ that told that church he was a failure, unimpressive, and unworthy of respect.  He boasts (his word, not mine) about his many visions, revelations, and trials endured for the Lord’s sake. He knew the power of the Spirit, had sacrificed safety and comfort in radical ways, and knew the supernatural call of God to ministry.

All of that was fertile soil in which spiritual pride and elitism might have grown except for yet another fact that he reveals. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me 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.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NIV)

God knows that we are at our best when we know our dependence on His grace and the power of the Spirit. Sounds great as we read it, doesn’t it? But, in real life we resist pain and we do just about anything to own ourselves and create a place of security, don’t we?  I am praying for healing of my busted knee and at the same time I am asking the Lord to use this time to shape me a bit more into the image of Jesus.  I don’t like pain but I know it can serve a purpose if I put it in the hands of God and let Him use it for my good.

How about you? Are you cursing some hardship in your life, angry at some continual source of pain, demanding that things get easier?

Make a better choice! Take that thing to the Lord in prayer and trust Him with it.  Tell Him that you will walk with a limp for the rest of your life if it makes you more useful in His purposes. Some will read that as a lack of faith! They will insist that suffering has no place in the life of a Spirit-filled disciple, that we should pray away every problem. Not so. The greater faith lets the Sovereign God choose the path and takes His grace for the day.

Jacob, the patriarch of the Old Testament, was a conniving schemer, a man who was smart and got his own way.  Where did it lead him? To exile from his family, to a place far from where God promised. But, the Lord did not abandon him.  Years after he stole his brother’s birthright and alienated himself from his father, he decided to go home.  On the way, he met a Person who “wrestled with him until daybreak” (Genesis 32:22-24).

The struggle went through the night to the dawn. Jacob was defeated when the Man “touched the socket of his thigh, so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him” (v.25).  At that moment, Jacob seemed to grasp that his encounter was with God and he prayed,  “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (v.26)

He left that encounter with a limp and a changed name. Names reveal God’s purposes in the Old Testament. Jacob, which meant ‘Deceiver,’ became Israel, which means ‘wrestles with God.’ He was not useful to the Lord until he was broken and submitted to Him.  What a powerful lesson for us.

Meditate on the passage I quoted a moment ago. Take the word from the Word and pray that God will make you strong in Him. “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)


Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
(a beautiful worship song that invites us to trust God)

You call me out upon the water
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand

 And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

 Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sov’reign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

 Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

 I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Joel Houston | Matt Crocker | Salomon Ligthelm © 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055

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