So as I continued in my study of Ephesians this week, I also had the chance to meet up with two very dear friends who I haven’t seen in a while, and sadly, both are battling different chronic ailments. One shared with me how her pride gets in the way of life because she refuses to accept the label of what her medical doctors call a “disability,” and in doing so stays on in her current line of work, which let’s just say would be debilitating to even someone who is the embodiment of perfect health!
When I heard my friend say this, my heart ached so deeply for her. How easy it is for us to get all caught up in what the rest of the world calls us and how we then end up letting it negatively impact the way we see ourselves. Isn’t it sad that we instead fail to believe the truth that God speaks to us in His Word, that which tells us how very precious we are to Him? In Ephesians 1, it says that God “blessed us”(v.3), “chose us”(v.4), and “adopted us as His sons (daughters) … in accordance with His pleasure”(v. 5). Do you hear that, girls? We are precious in His eyes. We bring delight to our heavenly creator, Father God. Why don’t we let that thought find a permanent home in our heads?
I wanted to say something encouraging to both my friends, but it’s hard for me to know exactly what they’re going through since I haven’t gone through it myself. Then, in such a God-like way, God showed up and pointed me in the direction of his apostle Paul who experienced perhaps a physical ailment of his own, at the very least what Paul himself called “a thorn in my flesh” (2Corinthians 12:7). Apparently, it was so bad that Paul pleaded three different times for the Lord to take it from Him, but did He? Nope. Instead he answered Paul by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness“(v.9). Howz abouts that for an answer to prayer? Not what we’d have wanted or expected, but yet how encouraged we can be by Paul’s response! God gave Paul such a supernatural gift of grace right in the midst of this trial that he was more than able to bear the pain of his affliction.
Finally, I get it! Lesson learned. Paul had no choice but to lean on the power of Christ working within him to overcome the pain and carry on with his preaching. It was Christ’s strength alone that would see him through this trial, which is ultimately what led Paul to say, “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”(v.9-10).
So there you have it. I don’t know how the story will end for either of my friends. God may (or He may not) end up removing their physical afflictions, yet regardless, my prayer for them is that they, much like Paul, would be able to feel the presence and sweetness in the power of Christ, right here and right now, smack dab in the middle of their trials, and that through this, others would see and marvel at how miraculous Christ’s strength within them is!
I’d love to hear your stories of how God has shown up and helped you handle the “thorns in your flesh.” Send me a comment below, and to Him be all the glory!