And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NKJV)
I’m terrible at memorizing Scripture. Terrible meaning I just don’t do it.
This is pretty ridiculous, really. I know how easy it is for my thoughts to go down a dark path. I know that I need to put truth in my mind, truth that I can recall at a moment’s notice. A decade ago I had no problem memorizing entire scripts for plays. On Thanksgiving I sang a song from my childhood that I hadn’t heard in over twenty years. I might be exhausted and my mind might not be what it once was, but I know I have the ability to engrave God’s truth onto my soul.
I chose the above passage to work on over the coming weeks on Saturday evening. Once again I lay on the couch, growing discouraged at how much life I miss while wrapped in this fatigue. Chris was gone, helping with a kid’s program at our church. Friends were scattered here and there. I was too tired even to walk up the street and visit my family. An introvert like me does appreciate her time alone, but there can be too much of a good thing.
I flipped through my Bible, looking for words of encouragement. Something I could hold on to.
As I read what the Apostle wrote all those ages ago, my first response was to say (out loud, even), was, “Shut up, Paul.”
Isn’t it funny how the Spirit works in giving life to the Scripture? I don’t think that God was upset about my reaction. Those are hard words to read in the midst of fatigue and depression. How on earth can I possibly rejoice? This concept shakes me all the more in the face of stolen debit card numbers and possible identity theft.
I closed my Bible. I didn’t want to hear it.
Then I considered the first part of the passage. “Lest I should be exalted above measure.”
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled….” – Matthew 23:12a (NKJV)
I don’t think that God strikes people with ailments or calamity because of their sin as a general rule. If He did, then surely those who perpetrate crimes would be in a far worse state. I do think, however, that God knows each of us so well that He knows exactly what to allow into our lives to accomplish His purposes. I know how arrogant I have been in the past. (Though this arrogance is so often a mask for crippling insecurity). Now, as I live with this exhaustion (physical, mental and emotional), there is no room for arrogance. I can’t exalt myself when I know just how small and weak I am.
I think that this passage shows us how God saves us from ourselves. If I weren’t sick and sad, I would keep going, blustering my way through life, set on my own plan and path. I don’t have the energy for that anymore. I don’t even have the desire. I want only to curl up in the lap of my loving Father and let Him soothe my wounds.
He does, in His own way and His own time. I have no doubt that He works on the delicate pieces of my broken heart, knitting them together so that I can love as He loves. I am learning to be content to wait in this position until I am released to do otherwise.
Now, instead of wanting Paul to shut up, I say, “Thank you, Lord.”
For all the posts in the What Depression Means to Me series, go here.