I was feeling pretty sorry for myself after a chronic health condition prevented me from sleeping more than 3-4 hours night after night. I don’t know about you, but when I am suffering physically, my tendency is to whine and complain and seek to satisfy a craving for sympathy. Once, when I needed “sympathy fix!” I even asked my wife to agree to say “poor baby” as often as I needed to hear it.
After praying repeatedly for immediate healing, I had to face the question of whether or not I really believed that God had allowed this chronic health condition for a greater purpose. I was beginning to understand something I had heard recently:
“We naturally want substitution (“God please take my pain and suffering and weakness – and give me healing”) but God is more interested in transformation – the process of growth that results in becoming more like Christ.”
In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul writes of a mind-blowing experience when he witnessed the heavenly glories of God. As a result, he sensed in himself the desire to boast and to think too highly of himself. As a result, God allowed Paul to be given a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment him, lest he should be exalted above measure.” This “thorn” is believed to be a physical infirmity, a chronic health condition that affected his eyes, which Paul initially asked God to remove. His request for immediate healing was also denied, because God’s will for Paul was not substitution, but transformation!
God assured Paul that his grace was sufficient for him, and said “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Understanding this truth, Paul said that he would “rather boast in his weaknesses…that the power of Christ may rest upon him.”
Can you imagine having a reason to brag about your suffering? I think we can – when we understand that our weakness presents the amazing opportunity to see God’s power at work in our lives. It happens when we allow our weakness to elevate and magnify God’s grace. I believe God wants us to be astonished when, in spite of our weaknesses, we see the evidence of His love and power flowing through us. We will find ourselves thinking, “Wow, even though I’m suffering right now, I am being empowered to serve the Lord, and it’s nothing short of miraculous that I can sacrifice for others with loving patience and kindness.
The next time you are weak, remember God will still present you with opportunities to serve Him, and will grant you the power to accomplish His will. When you willingly step out in spite of your weakness, you will see more clearly than ever that God can fill you with a spirit of “power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Instead of providing substitution (substituting your pain and suffering for immediate healing) God will accomplish transformation:
Transformation of your mind – you will become more and more convinced of the sufficiency of His Grace.
Transformation of your faith – you will trust more and more in His power.
Transformation of your heart – you will have more and more peace when faced with the suffering He has allowed – for His glory to be revealed in you!