The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…
"Scripture declares that sometimes our Heavenly Father delivers us from our difficulties, and sometimes He delivers us in them."
Life in a fallen world brings pain to us as a frequent companion, particularly as we grow older. The Apostle Paul, a man well acquainted with affliction, referred to the reality as the perishing of the outward man (II Corinthians 4:16).
Of course, we live in days when some causes of pain can be cured, and others can be treated by palliative care. We do well to be grateful for these means of alleviating pain. Moreover, God at times administers His direct healing to comfort us. However, some discomforts abide, and must be endured as an ongoing challenge. What does the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ do when God allows piercing thorns of pain to remain unplucked despite our most earnest hopes and fervent prayers? (II Corinthians 12:7-10). The Apostle Paul, who bore such a persistent challenge, provides an intriguing answer:
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthians 12:10).
First, note the Paul did not claim to "feel pleasure" in the pains of life. He rather declared, I "take pleasure." The original Greek - "eudokeo" - means that one chooses to think well of something. The Apostle thus declares he made a determination to view his pain in completely different terms than the normal human response. "To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6). Paul chose to view his discomforts from God's perspective, and with God as His perspective. He doubtless felt the same longings to escape pain as do we all. Since he traveled with a physician, Luke, and prescribed contemporary treatments of his day to Timothy, we can surmise Paul availed himself of whatever beneficial means to relieve pain he could find (Colossians 4:14; I Timothy 5:23). Doubtless, however, some pains remained, pains he chose to see as purposed or allowed by God for His glory, Paul's personal benefit, and the benefit of those to whom he ministered. "I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" (Philipians 1:12).
What if the lingering pains of our life have purpose? While we cannot feel pleasure in them, what if we can take pleasure? What if we can exchange our initial human reaction for a response of faith that sees God working in and through our sufferings? Our salvation began by the pains of Another becoming the basis for our redemption. "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust" (I Peter 3:18). It should not surprise us that as the same Christ walks in us, He will sometimes lead us down paths that bear thorns and briers rather than fragrant and beautiful blossoms. "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal body" (II Corinthians 4:10).
Such understanding and the response of faith will likely not alleviate our pain. It will, however, adjust our response to it, and more importantly, our response to God in our challenges. This will lead to a different experience of pain, particularly in how we honor our Lord as we walk with Him through it. Certainly, He takes no pleasure in our hurting, but He does weave His purposes into the challenge. Scripture declares that sometimes our Heavenly Father delivers us from our difficulties, and sometimes He delivers us in them (Psalm 34:6; Romans 8:37). Either way, our compassionate Lord walks with and within us through the thorns and briers of life. As we look to Him in the spiritual mindedness of faith and submission to Him, we will find our Father more than adequate to heal us by the power of His hand, or to help us by the presence of His heart when healing would not be best.
"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
(II Corinthians 12:9)
Weekly Memory Verse
For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
(II Corinthians 13:4)