Paradox

I taught my full day on Wednesday.  Our morning chapel sermon was based on this scripture reference:

2 Corinthians 12:10

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

“10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
What a paradox!  When I am weak, I’m actually strong?  If you back up and look at the beginning of the section, you understand the context better:
“Paul’s Vision and His Thorn

1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.7 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. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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.”

Now, I certainly haven’t been given any “great revelations” that I should be conceited about, but I recognize that when the pathway towards heaven gets pretty smooth, the devil seems to start plotting out some road obstructions.  God allows this, according to Paul’s words, to keep us humble–to keep our eyes fixed on Him.

Like Paul, we may long for that smooth pathway again and ask God, “WHY?”  God will speak to us through His Word, and the answer is what he told Paul: “My grace is enough.  It’s all that you need.  Besides, when you are weak my perfect power shines.”

Can we “boast” about our weaknesses, though?  Can we honestly be glad for them???  Personally, I find this hard to do.

I feel pretty weak lately–emotionally, even physically (I’ve been trying to fight off a cold from coming on for over a week).  I find that this happens right after I’ve felt my relationship to God be restored and strengthened–when I’ve gone through something, been humbled, asked for forgiveness, feel my shame lifted and am “right” with Him again, and then I rejoice and praise Him.  The devil find a pin prick, gets the tip of his hook in, and digs and claws his way back in to rattle my security again.  Soon, I’m confused.  My response to that which comes up is impatience–edginess.

Right now, the weakness in me that the devil is manipulating seems to be my wondering how I am to best serve God.  I feel my heart calling me to give, give, give to my family–fully.  Then, I get a phone call: we desperately need a substitute teacher.  Right now.  Then I get another student in my teaching load.  Then I get asked to take the services on a weekend that no one else has been able to fill.  And, I cry out in frustration, “What do you want from me, Lord?  Why isn’t it enough for me to just be “mom”?  What are you trying to show me?”

I honestly don’t know what He’s trying to show me, but I do know that He promises to equip us to do His work–whatever that may be in our own lives.  I do know that He wants me to trust Him and not worry.  I do know that He wants me to rejoice and praise Him, even when I’m wondering what’s to come.

It’s not easy to do all the things well that come with being a mom while working outside of the home, helping out friends, volunteering at school, and serving the church, but I’m certain that God sees inside my heart and knows what kind of attitude is there when I’m doing those things.  I know that in His power and grace he can make great things happen through my feeble, fumbling efforts.

Letting go of the fact that our minds can’t fathom His vast wisdom and reasoning for what we go through is difficult…but it’s part of the process of trust.  I don’t have to know why I got asked to substitute teach on my three “off” days and therefore will be teaching each day of the week, when I’m feeling depleted and just wanted time with my Little One, but I do know that SOMEONE has to teach and that I wouldn’t have been asked if they felt that someone else was available.  So, I just have to trust that God is controlling this and will work it out for our eternal good.

Forgive me when I waiver, Lord.  Forgive me for my frustrations and my lack of trust.  Thank you for having already done so.  May my actions today stem from joy and trust in your promises.

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5 Responses to Paradox

  1. Kevin says:

    Don’t you think that when, from an earthly standpoint, the road of life is smooth and free of obstacles, the devil does all he can to keep it obstacle-free, so that we continue to trust in our own safe, little world, and the “security” that “things” bring? I think God allows troubles to come into our lives to humble us and draw us to more closely trust him. But, at the same time, the lesson of Job shows us that God may allow the devil to bring troubles to people.
    I think that we ought to become a bit concerned if things get very “smooth” in our lives; perhaps it’s from a prideful attitude that “now I’ve made it, I’ve created my own perfectly-running kingdom where my to-do list is all crossed off, my children are little angels, and my house is up-to-date and in good order.” Praise God from whom all blessings flow, but let us be humbled by Jesus’ warning: “You fool! This very night your life will be taken from you.”
    In “Dying to Live,” Senkbeil relates all the things people do to avoid thinking about the inevitable end–death. Christians recognize that we’ve been dying since our birth, but look toward the end with confidence. Since we’ve died to sin in our Baptism, and can be strengthened in faith and daily forgiven through Word and Sacrament, we truly are alive, whatever our situation looks like from an earthly perspective. “For me to live is Christ; to die is gain.” That’s why I don’t shy away from talking to my students about death when it’s applicable in devotion time (which could be just about every devotion). They need to see that this world doesn’t hold eternal joy; rather, look to the end, where Jesus promises, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
    Take each day as a day of God’s grace, in which we will stumble and fall into sin, but in which we also have the refreshing waters of God’s Word to strengthen us!

    • I do think that it goes both ways. In my post I talked about how I feel the devil “creeps” in when I’ve repented and feel at peace and am consciously praising him and rejoicing in my blessings. I think that this must drive him nuts to see me giving thanks to God for that which is going well, and he wants to do something to change that.

      On the other hand, what you’re talking about also makes sense. If the devil sees that things are going well and we’re giving ourselves the credit, I’m sure he does all that he can to keep us going on that “yay me, I’m doing awesome” path.

      As I also mentioned in my post, I personally find it easier to praise Him when things are going well than to rejoice in Him when things are rocky. It is, in my opinion, one of my major weaknesses. I was trying to follow Paul’s example by “boasting”, or at least speaking blatantly, about my weakness.

      • Do you think, Kevin, that the following could fit some of what you brought up…

        If we feel called to serve God in so many ways that at some point one must sacrifice his/her health (I am going to use the example of not getting enough sleep) because of how much time the service requires, is it entirely possible that God would ask this of us? That He might in fact allow us to be continually exhausted or perhaps even die because we get so physically run down while serving him? That He is calling us to rely on Him to equip us when we are physically weak?

        I tend to base my decisions on what I can and cannot do on how much they will take out of me–or try to make getting enough sleep a priority so that I can serve to the best of my abilities in a particular facet (prioritizing as I best see fit, but then having to “cut back” in other facets). You know that I feel that I get run down very quickly when I’m not getting enough sleep, and lately then I tend to get ill and have a hard time shaking it–and that for me “enough” sleep means quite a lot of hours per day (9-10). What I’m trying to understand, though, is if God is asking me to do more, and sacrifice sleep no matter what it might do to me physically???

      • Kevin says:

        I would be surprised if anyone is easily able to rejoice in difficulty. Like you said, it’s much easier to give thanks to God when things are going well.
        It’s why we see a smiling athlete give God the glory in an interview at the end of a big game. Do we see this same athlete giving God the glory in defeat? (I guess we’ll never know, since the losers aren’t usually interviewed!)

      • Kevin says:

        Personally speaking, so many of my late nights are my own fault. They are basically a result of procrastinating doing the things I ought to be doing. There are things I could do to maximize my time more efficiently. For me, though, as I drag my weary body to bed too late, I think to myself that, ultimately, it’s a lack of trust in God to provide all that I need that keeps me from just STOPPING and going to bed. We need to read God’s promises over and over and over and over, and the Gospel will direct us in sanctified choices–when to go to bed, etc.

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