Me: “Relax! What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
Katie: “We could all die!!!”
What do you do when disaster strikes? When the ship goes down? When he walks away? When she betrays you? When that phone call comes?
Most of the time I talk about the areas of our lives we should be controlling. You reap what you sow… Make better decisions… you know, that sort of thing. There are other times that aren’t like those times. Times when disaster actually strikes you and you can’t do anything about it. You might deserve these times and you might not. They don’t happen all that often but when they do you feel like you’re dying, like everything you love might be ripped away from you.
When you’re young you think it won’t happen. Remember when we used to pride ourselves in our strength? Admitting weakness was terrible! Life was simple: Win! Have fun! The challenges you faced were hard but overcommable (new word). Your life was simple, you had answers for troubled people. Their problems and pain were quite apparent to your great troubleshooting abilities.
Until IT happened. In one moment of time you asked what nobody asks: “What if….” What if I lose everything? What if they actually die? What will happen if…. You find yourself gut shot and gasping for breath as the illusion of control and happiness comes crashing down and you see the great fragility of life for the first time.
That’s when it gets complicated. Now you don’t have any answers. Now you start asking all the right questions. But what if the only questions you have don’t get answered?
Human nature is a funny and stupid thing sometimes. We laugh when something happens to someone else and say “Glad it’s not me!” then go back to whatever normal looks like to us. The thought of spending the good times preparing for the worst times never finds its way into our brains. I know this because it normally takes me around three months to quit whining about disaster because it’s “Not fair!” when fair has nothing to do with whether something is actually happening or not! It’s too late to prepare for a disaster in the middle of a disaster! You will only do what you’ve always done.
Unless you read something uncomfortable like this and prepare a plan ahead of time. Prepare a plan for when you hit the end of yourself…. When you are not enough.
Paul the Apostle talks about a thorn in his flesh. Now this was a man who never crawled, never pleaded, never walked away from pain. Read the account of his sufferings. Read about what happened to this amazing man, the one killed in Rome for the faith he once tried to exterminate. The guy who desperately wanted to have the opportunity to preach in Rome, knowing full well what awaited him. You don’t do that and I don’t do that, we spend our resources and time trying to escape pain, trying to be at peace with our lives and everyone around us.
Even while Paul was pleading with the Lord to remove this terrible and mysterious malady which was affecting his body his critics were hard at work trying to discredit not just his work in the Gospel, but him as a person. Your work is one thing but when it hits close to home… man. Tough times..
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord…” Paul says. Paul’s three times are not our three times. We pray desperately three times when we have a head cold that makes us uncomfortable. Now the physical pain is seeping into his soul. Pain in the soul hurts more than pain in the body. Now Paul starts wondering if the God he preaches heard him? Three times he pleaded. Now the anguish is complete as it crosses into spiritual pain. Now he’s asking questions like “Is there a God who loves me? Did I get this whole thing wrong? I heal the sick and now I am sick?” His critics jump on his statement about the thorn in his flesh, this “messenger of Satan sent to buffet” him. The popular theology of the day (Jesus and the man born blind) was that physical defect or sickness was a sign of displeasure or punishment from God Himself. Now Paul, the father of the non Jewish church, has willingly put his head in the noose for his critics. Why? WHY?
Paul did what fathers do sometimes. He made a considered move knowing what it would likely cost him in the book of 2 Corinthians (12:7-10). He warned them of a time in their lives when they were going to face what he had faced and what to do when it happened. He warned them in spite of their prideful ways. He warned them when they would only laugh and ridicule him. He warned them because he loved them more than some of them loved him back. He threw a handful of pain at their wall hoping beyond hope that a thought would stick long enough to get them through the period in their lives coming that many didn’t survive. So many people’s faith was shipwrecked at this crucial juncture but he didn’t want it to be theirs.
He tells them God’s answer:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”
I used to think this was an answer and Paul got what he was asking for. That was back in the time of my life when things were simpler, when every prayer got answered, when every pain was cheerfully resolved, before I suffered loss, sometimes even the loss of my mind. (I don’t mind giving my critics some real ammo, saves them making most of it up. I do hope that some of this pain sticks on their wall long enough to….you know…). But what do you do when the only answer you need is the only one you don’t get? Who cares about the rest of your life? Someone bring some relief from the pain!!!
“My grace will be enough”
Will it though? What if…? What if they leave and don’t come back? What if she dies God? What if I lose my kids? What if..? What if?
“My grace will be enough”
We find ourselves in a place where the rich of the world and the poor come together. Where the only thing that exists is a smashing bloodthirsty loss. Where the fabric of our souls is torn and that cursed self sufficiency meets an end (hopefully) once and for all. Where all the people who love you can’t save you because you can’t even save yourself. Where your soul meets its Maker and He says “My grace is sufficient for you”. No longer flowery phrases about God. No longer Sunday School images and illusions. No longer this cheap devotion where everything works out in the end and you get what you want.
You realize in this desperation that you were never enough in the first place. That YOU were always your own worst enemy. That it has fallen apart and has fallen on YOU. And we raise our eyes to heaven where they belonged in the first place and we…
Let Go and Let God.