Some people are really good at realizing what is truly of worth in life. They value relationships over doing, know how to measure worth, think eternally, know more about being a good christian instead of just trying to check things off a list. I am not one of those people.
I used to always think that if I was busy enough, doing enough things, doing the right things, volunteering for everything, keeping all the balls in the air while keeping the joy of the Lord, that meant I was a successful Christian.
Then I got sick. After a few years the pain got intense and I could no longer keep all the balls in the air. I had to stop volunteering for everything. Some days I stayed on the couch all day and “did” absolutely nothing. My pain affected more than my body.
My ego was crushed.
How would people know I was a great Christian? More importantly, how would I know? There’s no published check list for people in their early 30s who should have boundless energy but have days they can’t function.
If we go back to our study in II Corinthians 12, Paul says that one reason his thorn in the flesh was given to him was so that he would not be exalted.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”
Let me tell you, it works.
It taught me that there is nothing good that I can do outside of God.
Paul makes it clear as the chapter goes on that he wants God to get the glory. I loved serving God and probably would have told you that I was giving God all the glory, but I honestly never really thought much about needing God’s help to serve Him. The days that forced me to pray, “Dear God, please help me be able to walk as many hours as I need today” showed me exactly how weak I was and how much I needed to depend on God. I still try to do as much as I can for God, and since I’m having a great year health wise its been a little easier, but I still have enough pain to remind me who I need. Sometimes giving God the glory is not just a public thing like saying “praise the Lord” when someone likes your special music. For me, it had to become much more an attitude of the heart. A realization of who is really doing the work in my life.
It taught me to be more humble.
I still have a long way to go! So, so long. As I’ve mentioned before, I spent some time saying to myself, “I am a servant, I am a servant”. I think it must not be working well because I have a friend who added, “servanthood and humility”. I even got sent a reference:) By the way, I’m giving this friend a hard time, but its amazing to have a friend to work on spiritual things together with. Humility started its work in me just because my ego was crushed, but one way that pain has taught me to be more humble is how I look at others. Most people have no idea on the days that I can’t get out of bed, but I would never have looked at others and wondered what was going on in their lives either. Its amazing what pain in our own lives can do for our compassion for others! I now know what it is to not be able to do life because of pain or depression. There are so many things that go on in others hearts, minds, and bodies that I have no idea about, yet its so easy to judge them based on what I see a few minutes a week.
Pain, such a love hate relationship. If I could choose to wake up tomorrow and never have pain again, I would. But the growth that comes from pain is life changing in a way that nothing else can be. Just one more lesson from II Corinthians 12 to come.