Ok, so I am about to make a pretty embarrassing confession to you. Most people would be completely embarrassed by it, but I am
more than completely only a little embarrassed about it. Are you ready?
That’s right, when you look at my outward appearance, you may think “Hey, she’s not bad lookin’.” But, when you get down to the bottom – all the way to the feet region, just trust me – it ain’t pretty. My husband
who thinks he’s so funny has been known to tease me relentlessly a little. “Ya know babe,” he teases, “if I had actually taken a good look at those feet, I may not have married you for fear of procreating with you and passing that on.” Ha. Such a funny man. Hope the couch is comfy tonight, Mr. funny man.
Funny, but true. I will spare you the details
since I am stupidly announcing this to the world as to the exact reasons for this beauty impediment for me. Ya, I meant to do that! He, he. But, just trust me on this one. So, along with the ugliness, I also have a terrible habit of picking at my feet. I know, I know, now we’ve moved from ugly to flat out gross, but just stick with me.
The backs of my heels are awful thanks to my subconscious picking. It’s really bad! And the reason I am sharing this with you is because, believe it or not, God actually spoke to me through my funktified heels.
I know, I’m such a weirdo.
I had messed with my feet so much that the injuries actually spread to the underside of my heel. Are there any women out there that can relate to the pain I have been feeling? Due to the wounds I have inflicted upon myself, it felt as though someone was shoving a
stinkin’ 6 inch thorn in my heel every single time I put weight on my right foot.
So, what did I do? Did I cover the wound with healing aid creams or wrap it with gauze so that the cushioning would help? Nope. I just changed the way I walked. I actually started walking with every right step up on my tippy toes. Great. Now, not only do I have ugly feet, but I now I walk funny too. Wonderful.
After a few days of this annoyance and embarrassment, I decided to try and “tough it out” and just put my full weight on my heel when I walk. I’m a big girl. I can do this. That lasted about 3 ½ steps. It was brutal.
I thought to myself, This is ridiculous! I can’t believe I’ve let this wound change the way I walk!
Bam! God’s loving and sovereign 2x4 to my head.
Oh how I do this in life, friend.
We are all wounded. Whether it be mental, emotional, spiritual, or physical…or even worse
like yours truly and the answer is – E: all of the above. I can be a basketcase sometimes.
Maybe you suffer from depression. You know what it’s like to walk around in a dark and filmy funk that feels like an excruciating weight that you just can’t get free of.
Perhaps your struggle is anxiety. You have such extreme moments of intense worry that it change the way you act, think, and interact with others. You just aren’t you.
Or maybe you have a chronic illness that has latched onto your life without your
stinkin’ permission. So, the cheerful memories of yesterday are clouded by the constant pain that is today and will be tomorrow.
Business failure after business failure… failed relationship after failed relationship…emotional drama in your family that makes General Hospital seem like Leave it to Beaver… whatever it is, friend – it has caused a wound. Are you walking funny?
I’ve had days where I look like a flat out moron with my funny walkin’. But, at least now, thanks to God’s loving re-re-re-direction, I have been strengthened by His Truth.
God used the apostle Paul to stand alongside me these last days and weeks of my funky walk. Paul, the man who used to do everything he could to kill those who loved God. The Bible said Saul did all he could to “breathe out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples”. Yikes! Yes, friend, this guy had the biggest 2x4 moment your little brain can imagine on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9) So much so, that God changed the man’s name. Further proof that God doesn’t desire for us to associate ourselves with our former bondage. The persecutor, Saul, was now and forevermore the servant of God, Paul. And, his story has moved me.
Paul writes to the Corinthians about what he is going through and what he has gone through. He is open, honest and transparent. He doesn’t take credit for his success or his wisdom. He simply points to Christ.
Oh, how I desire to be that way.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 “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.”
Wow. Good stuff. Thank you, Paul.
There are so many different gems in this passage. I have spent a lot of time researching and digging deeper about this lately. Could you please go with me on this journey, friend? I think you will be glad you did.
First off, I love that God knows us best and loves us most. He absolutely knew that Paul had a history of being a cocky dude. He’d had to have been in order to persecute Christians so boldly – that takes an uber amount of confidence in oneself.
So, God gave him a thorn in his flesh. (Notice that Paul didn’t write that he was “afflicted” or “cursed” – this was given to him by the God he served!) Paul even referred to it as a messenger from Satan. That’s pretty intense. But, how can a gift from God also be a messenger of Satan? Simple. Our God is so great that He can even use the enemy and his evil desires as pawns moving around at HIS permission to ultimately bring Him glory. In the moment, this thorn in Paul’s flesh is awful, tough, even despairing – all things the enemy loves to bring to us – but ultimately, God gets the glory, because Paul continually returns to Him for strength, peace, and support. One of the commentaries I read put it this way, “This thorn was both a “messenger of Satan” and also given (ultimately by God) to Paul. Satan probably jumped at God’s permission to afflict Paul and did so with malice. But, God had a purpose in it all and allowed Satan’s messenger to successfully keep Paul being “exalted above measure”.
This, I can relate to for sure. Can you?
If left to my own demise, I could ride that “exalted beyond measure” plane all around the world
a few times.
You are looking at one frequent flyer here, baby.
And, I have been tormented by far worse that this pesky wound on my heel. I am, in fact, writing to you from my couch, once again
again, again, again, again, again because of my medical drama, again! (Did I mention that this isn’t the first time!?) I have another spinal fluid leak (this is my fifth one in four years) and will face an excruciating procedure on Monday (my ninth one) that will hopefully fix it. The anxiety this has caused me over the years has been at some times annoying, and at other times, debilitating.
The word choice Paul used for this “thorn” in his flesh is skolops, which isn’t used to describe a splinter. It was more commonly used to describe a tent stake. Can you relate, friend, to walkin’ around with a tent stake shoved in your flesh. Ya, me to.
And this tent stake didn’t just annoy him a little. He said it tormented him. The original Greek word for torment (or buffeted) is kolaphizo, which means “to strike with a fist, give a blow with a fist, to maltreat with violence.” This isn’t some unrealistic fight scene from a Hollywood movie where the actors are wresting each other off ledges, punching each other full force and then beating one another over the head with iron crowbars repeatedly, only to receive a small, conveniently placed above the right eyebrow, kind of wound. Ya right. Who are they kidding? Just one of those blows to the head would cause serious brain damage. No, friend, this is the type of torment that has one guy holding you back while another guy kicks you in the teeth over and over until there are no more teeth to kick. This is for real.
Paul lived it. I’ve lived it. I wonder, sweet friend, if you’ve lived it.
One great theologian put it this way; “Perhaps you have looked into the face of a Christian who is always smiling, who never seems to have any worry, is always happy and radiant and, as you have thought about your own circumstances, you have said in your heart, ‘I wish I were he! He seems to have no problems. He doesn’t have to take what I do.’ But perhaps you have lived long enough, as I have, not know that sometimes the most radiant face hides great pressures, and often the man who is being most blessed of God is being most buffeted by the devil.”
So true. Do not get caught up in the “grass is always greener” world, friend – because when you get over there, you will flat out discover that it is Astroturf. It. Ain’t. Real.
And, no, I don’t recommend that we walk around with every emotion on our sleeve and no boundaries at all.
Grocery clerk: “How are you today, ma’am?”
I’ve-Almot-Lost-It-Girl: (bursting into tears) “My husband doesn’t love me, my kids hate me, my house was on last week “Hoarders” show and I have herpes.”
Grocery clerk: “Um, ok, do you want paper or plastic then?”
Yes, that isn’t healthy or productive or sane. Let’s not be that girl.
Instead let’s look at Paul, a spiritual giant. Here he is pleading with God to take this tent stake away. Now this, I can completely relate to. Modern mathematics cannot count the number of times I’ve pleaded with God to take away my illness, my anxieties, my pain. I’ve been face down, snot in the carpet, kind of ugly begging about it. Yet, from my couch, again, I type.
You may think it is “un-spiritual” to ask God for something over and over. I get that. But, can I please remind you about the garden of Gethsemane? Our Lord Himself pleaded three times for His Father to take this cup away from Him. Three times. So, I figure is He is God incarnate – the Word made flesh – perfect and without sin - and even He pleaded three times, I cut myself some slack for pleading a few
thousand more times than that.
What matters though, is how Jesus ended that prayer. Mark 14:36 tells us His heart’s desire was “not my will, but yours be done.”
Not my will.
Not my will.
Not my will.
Amen to that.
I honestly believe that God cares more about your heart and your motives and your intentions than He does about your every particular action. Your actions can scream “not my will, but yours be done” all day long, but is your heart and mind screaming “PLEASE JUST DO MY WILL” inside where no one else can see? Ya, I’ve been there, too
God did not answer Paul’s plea the way Paul desired. But, friend, please hear me… that God most assuredly did answer. The commentary I read by David Guzik put it this way; “Paul was desperate in his desire to be relieved of this burden. But there are two ways of taking away a burden. It can be done by removing the load, or it can be done by strengthening the shoulder bearing the load. Instead of taking away the thorn, God would strengthen Paul under it, and God would show His strength through Paul’s apparent weakness.”
I don’t think you and I can truly appreciate the sufficiency of God’s strength until we have been slapped across the face with the reality of the insufficiency of our own.
The great theologian, author, preacher, and early evangelist, Charles Spurgeon put it brilliantly; “Great tribulation brings out the great strength of God. If you never feel inward conflicts and sinking of soul, you do not know much of the upholding power of God; but if you go down, down, into the depths of soul-anguish till the deep threatens to shut her mouth upon you, and then the Lord rides upon a cherub and does fly, yea, rides upon the wings of the wind and delivers your soul, and catches you away to the third heaven of delight, then you perceive the majesty of divine grace. Oh, there must be the weakness of man, felt, recognized, and mourned over, or else the strength of the Son of God will never be perfected in us.”
Friend, this was written over a hundred years ago. Paul’s tormenting happened thousands of years ago. This is not new. We are not unique in our sufferings. In fact, Scripture promises us this (once again through the divinely inspired pen of my buddy, Paul) in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
especially ones that are named ME often misunderstand this Scripture. As my beloved pastor puts it, “People think that becoming a Christian means that the rest of your life, you will be healthy, wealthy and wise. So, they want to give up on God when they face times when they are sick, broke, and dumb.”
Paul is telling us that we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear. Not that we won’t face things beyond what we can bear. Because, friend, I assure you that you can’t throw a rock in any direction and not hit someone who would say in full honesty that they have faced something that they felt was too heavy to bear. If you can’t find anyone, come my way and chunk your rock in my direction. I’ll tell you plenty more than you want to hear. We will continually face things we don’t feel like we can bear. But, the amazing and fantastic news is that we will never, and I do mean NEVER face anything to difficult for God. Ever.
Luke 1:37 says that “nothing is impossible with God.”
And this was said by an angel to a little teenage girl who just found out she would be giving birth to the Christ child. Talk about more than she could bear. I think if God could handle that through her, then He can handle my junk. Can I get an Amen?
So, my dear friend…although I do not know your specific wound, I do know what it is like to be wounded. I do know what it is like to look like a fool from changing the way I walk because of it. May your wounds and my wounds strengthen our walk, straighten our walk, and re-direct our walk on the path he has lovingly and divinely chosen for us. He can be trusted.
And while I am fully aware that this is already a very long post, I beg you to just stay with me. I want to leave you with some more wisdom from the research I’ve been doing. May these reflections on the Truth of God, the love of God, the faithfulness of God, and the strength of God nudge you all the more closely to putting your full faith in God. Not just for the salvation of your soul – but for the salvation of your each and every day. I love you, friend.
David Guzik writes: My grace is sufficient for you: You may emphasize any aspect of this you please.
i. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Grace is the favor and love of God in action. It means He loves us and is pleased by us. Can you hear it from God? “My love is enough for you.” Isn’t it true?
ii. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Whose grace is it? Jesus’ grace. Isn’t His love, His favor, enough? What will Jesus fail at? Remember to that Jesus suffered thorns. He cares. He knows.
iii. “My grace is sufficient for you.” It is right now. Not that it will be some day. Right now, at this moment, His grace is sufficient. You thought something had to change before His grace would be enough. You thought, “His grace was sufficient once. His grace may be sufficient again. But not now, not with what I am going through.” But God’s word stands. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Spurgeon wrote, “It is easy to believe in grace for the past and the future, but to rest in it for the immediate necessity is true faith. Believer, it is now that grace is sufficient: even at this moment it is enough for thee.”
iv. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Redpath explains this aspect best: “Do you see the humor of the situation? God’s grace: me. His grace sufficient for little me! How absurd to think that it could ever be any different! As if a little fish could swim in the ocean and fear lest it might drink it dry! The grace of our crucified, risen, exalted, triumphant Saviour, the Lord of all glory, is surely sufficient for me! Do you not think it is rather modest of the Lord to say sufficient?”
v. “My grace is sufficient for you.” I’m so glad God didn’t say, “My grace is sufficient for Paul the Apostle.” I might have felt left out. But God made it broad enough. You can be the you in for you. God’s grace is sufficient for you! Are you beyond it? Are you so different? Is your thorn worse than Paul’s, or worse than many others who have known the triumph of Jesus? Of course not.
And once again, the great Charles Spurgeon, blesses us with this truth; “This sufficiency is declared without any limiting words, and therefore I understand the passage to mean that the grace of our Lord Jesus is sufficient to uphold thee, sufficient to strengthen thee, sufficient to comfort thee, sufficient to make thy trouble useful to thee, sufficient to enable thee to triumph over it, sufficient to bring thee out of it, sufficient to bring thee out of ten thousand like it, sufficient to bring thee home to heaven . . . O child of God, I wish it were possible to put into words this all-sufficiency, but it is not. Let me retract my speech: I am glad that it cannot be put into words, for if so it would be finite, but since we never can express it, glory be to God it is inexhaustible, and our demands upon it can never be too great. Here let me press upon you the pleasing duty of taking home the promise personally at this moment, for no believer here need be under any fear, since for him also, at this very instant, the grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient.”
And now back to good ol’ David Guzik:
Many of us think that real Christian maturity is when we come to a place where we are somewhat “independent” of God. The idea is that we have our act so together that we don’t need to rely of God so much day to day, moment to moment. This isn’t Christian maturity at all. God deliberately engineered debilitating circumstances into Paul’s life so he would be in constant, total dependence on God’s grace and God’s strength.
ii. Many people see God as a parent that we outgrow. Once we’re mature, once we have overcome certain obstacles in life, we can shake off God just the same as we shook off the authority of our parents. And some of us treat God the same way we treat our parents. We give Him a measure of respect, we give Him His due - but we no longer feel we really have to obey Him any more. In our hearts, we have moved out of the house. We think we can make our own rules in life as long as we have supper at God’s house once a week and give the “old man” a little recognition.
iii. Many harbor a longing for the day when the Christian life will become “easy.” We hope for a time when the major struggles with sin are behind us, and now we go on to bigger and better things without much of a struggle. That day is an illusion. If the apostle Paul himself constantly experienced weakness, who are we to think that we will surpass him?
iv. In fact, the illusion of strength and independence actually leaves someone in a weaker place. “There is nothing more hindering the work of God than the uplifted and proud Christian.” (Morgan)
v. “Ministers of the Gospel especially should banish all thoughts of their own cleverness, intellectual ability, culture, sufficiency for their work, and learn that only when they are emptied can they be filled, and only when they know themselves to be nothing are they ready for God to work through them.” (Maclaren)
vi. “God works through the man who has been wiped clean and turned inside out, his life emptied before the Lord until he is hopelessly weak, that no flesh might glory in His presence.” (Redpath)
And if there is even one solid soul still reading these great blessings of truth God has given to me this week, can I just lovingly caution you, in your own world as the Holy Spirit has cautioned me in mine…
“Yet, we should never think that in our lives, the mere presence of a thorn means the glory and strength of Jesus will shine in us and through us. You can resist God’s grace, and refuse to set your mind on Jesus, and find your thorn cursing you instead of blessing you. “Without the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, thorns are productive of evil rather than good. In many people, their thorn in the flesh does not appear to have fulfilled any admirable design at all; it has created another vice, instead of removing a temptation.” (Spurgeon)
Let this not be us Lord, not me, not my friend reading