“Pain” is a 4-letter word for me these past few days.
So it was with great interest that I listened to today’s sermon in church which was centered on Paul’s battle with the thorn in his flesh. He did not specify what his “thorn” was…some theologians speculate that he was going blind (because others wrote his letters and also read them to him). The passage referenced was 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
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.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 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. 10That’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.
I have to say, I am no Paul. Reading that passage makes me feel even more weak than I already am. Weak in body. Weak in spirit. Weak in faith. I feel zero pride in myself. Unlike Paul, I have no special revelations that would make me feel pride. I do not traverse the globe telling others the good news of Jesus.
The real truth of the matter is…how can I spread the good news of Christ when I don’t experience the good news myself?
Thoughts like that one are instant guilt-generators. On other days I would certainly erase such words from this blog, if not from my head, because they aren’t in line with ideal Christian I want to be.
Yesterday, last night, and today, my mind has been consumed with irritating PAIN. Imagine a rock working its way under your skin, lodging right on top of your diaphragm. It’s a sensation that you are both over-full and hungry. It’s a constant pressure, like an elastic band is wound tight around your lower chest/upper abdomen. Couple that sensation with an elephant sitting on your chest. Your sternum is sore to the touch. Your lower back pulses with pain. The skin on your back is so sensitive that moving air from the air conditioner causes pain severe enough to make you wince. Now add in a heaping helping of sore muscles at the base of your neck and bloating pain in your stomach. Every time you chew food, swallow, take a drink, or speak, your tongue hurts.
Welcome to my life. Welcome to the thorns endlessly pricking my flesh.
My pastor wants me to look at these thorns as tools that God will use to make me stronger. There are many worship songs that champion this theme, like this one from Casting Crowns:
These thorns are Satan’s messengers. They torment me. I get that — I live it every day. Some days are worse than others. What I don’t get is just exactly how and where the “my grace is sufficient unto you” comes into play in my life. Because you see…it’s not enough. Not today. I’m not living an abundant life. I’m not walking a life in freedom. I’m not thinking every day about how I can serve Jesus or how I can spread the good news to those who don’t believe. Instead I waste away in the recliner with the heating pad. I’m alive, even if sometimes I think it would be better to not be.
Days like this I am the antithesis of a good Christian. Our pastor cautioned us not to blame God for the thorns. Satan conceives of the thorns — they are all his ideas — but God allows only those thorns that will be for our ultimate good.
I don’t see where my ultimate good comes into play at this moment. Like Winston Churchhill said after losing an election,
If this is a blessing, it is certainly very well disguised!
(I can’t take credit for the Churchhill quote…it was part of the sermon today!)
How can the grace of God be enough? How does that come about? A grammar study of the text,
My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.
tells me that I am not the one who is supposed to be doing the action. God’s grace is all the action I need. So why am I not feeling His power? What is preventing me from experiencing His grace and power in the face of my pain and weakness?
I don’t have the answer for that just yet. But I’ll be on the lookout for it, and I’m going to be praying for grace so I can weather this torment without losing my faith, so I can go on to truly LIVE and not just survive. I want to learn what it means to “lean on” the Lord through a difficult situation. I’ve been leaning. I don’t feel Him. But maybe I’m just not looking in the right places.
Could there be any bright side to these thorns in my side?
Top 5 Ways Fibromyalgia Could Be A Blessing In Disguise
1. The pain prevents me from eating much, so I don’t get overweight.
2. The pain makes me rest. A lot. With a sweet cuddly doggy in my lap.
3. The pain gives me a good excuse to put my feet up and let someone else do the dinner dishes.
4. The pain makes me long for heaven.
5. The pain keeps me from talking too much, which leads to (hopefully) fewer times of foot-in-mouth-disease.
I know, it’s a wimpy list. I’ll be praying for the Lord to show me some supernatural strength so I can kick this four-letter-word to the curb. I don’t want Satan to triumph over my life and steal my joy. I want to be counted among those who overcome. But it’s clear that any overcoming that happens won’t be done by a weakling such as me. Instead, it will have to come from God himself.
I just thought of another reason I may have so many thorns pricking my body…maybe God is nudging me ever closer to the decision to have the hysterectomy. After all, I did ask Him for a sign. I just didn’t think it would involve a jungle of thorns.