By Anthony Casperson
Does there come a time when we should accept our present, uncomfortable circumstances? Is there a moment in our lives to ask people to stop praying for healing/deliverance/direction and instead pray that God reveals his glory, and his plan, through our pain/hardship/aimlessness?
The question may seem odd to some. It might sound un-Christian to others. These individuals might reply, “God is Jehovah-Rapha [‘Yahweh heals’]. How could you possibly ask such a thing?” My opening question might evoke out of some a sense of a lack of faith, as if God isn’t able to heal or help.
However, my asking about accepting difficult situations doesn’t come from a place of questioning God’s ability. Rather, it comes from wondering about God’s work through the issues. Sure, God can show his amazing power by making the lame walk. But he can also teach his astonishing ways by pushing a hip out of socket, like he did to Jacob when he was renamed Israel. The life-long limp a reminder of God’s victory in his life.
God’s ability to reveal his glory through our difficult times showcases his power in unimaginable ways. And this can be done either through God’s healing OR the sufficiency of his gracious restraint.
Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 12. The Apostle laid out the great things God had done in his life, but says that in these things he would never brag. Rather, his bragging rights are found in his weaknesses. Verse 7 shows us an example. Paul had been given a “thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know what this “thorn” was, but context tells us it was some form of difficulty in the Apostle’s life. He even calls it an agent of Satan sent to rough him up.
This difficulty assaulted the Apostle for who knows how long. Paul prayed that God would take care of it. He prayed for healing. And I have no doubt that the various churches who heard of Paul’s plight prayed for healing/deliverance. The answer from God: “No. Be satisfied with the great favor I’ve given you in everything else. My strength finds its culmination in weakness.”
Paul likely continued his life after that first prayer. People still praying for his deliverance. But that thorn kept digging in. “Lord, take this thorn from me,” the Apostle prayed again. But the same answer followed. And Paul tried to live in that answer.
A third time, probably when Paul was so tired of dealing with the whole situation, he prayed fervently that God would take the thorn away. He knows that the agents of Satan hold no sway over the greatness of God’s abilities. Yet this thorn kept digging in. But still, the answer from God remained the same. The Apostle needed to be satisfied with living in the difficult situation so that God’s strength could be showcased in full through it.
Paul finally came to understand the meaning of God’s words here. He consented to the weakness. He accepted the uncomfortable circumstances of his present. And he’d consent to the weakness of every difficult situation that God would allow in his life. He consents to being insulted and mistreated, to life’s daily pressures, to the heated pursuit of haters, to the times when his world falls away and he has nowhere else to stand.
And in every one of those places, he stands firm in the power of God. This isn’t just because God will heal and help, but because God will be glorified through it. This is why the Apostle willingly accepts the difficult times.
Living in the pain/hardship/aimlessness reveals God’s glory as we worship him in spite of it.
Our faith isn’t dependant on how often God heals us. It doesn’t matter if we’re delivered from our current troubles. Our reliance on God doesn’t diminish just because we’re left on a lone pillar with no way to go.
Faith flows out of us when we consent to the glory of God. When we move in whatever direction God calls us to, so that his glory shines the brightest, that is faithful action.
Some of us deal with chronic and repetitious pains. (And some of them from unknown reasons.) Others if us have voices in our heads that lie to us, telling us how worthless we are. And still others are mocked and beaten and threatened with death. The pain and difficulty will look differently for many, but our perspective should remain the same.
Do we consent to any and every hardship so that God’s glorious might can showcase its fullness through us?
For some people and in specific situations, it will mean that God will heal and deliver. And we can rejoice in his ability. But there are sometimes when God will tell us that has done all that he will in the situation. And we can rejoice in his glory that will be proven through it.
Don’t allow the difficult times, the pain, the hardship, the aimlessness, to hold us back from seeing and seeking the glorious might of our God and Savior. Sometimes, the best way to worship God is to accept our present, uncomfortable circumstances so that he can be glorified.