The God with Whom we Are Uncomfortable: a Strength


Gentle Reader,

For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10b (NKJV)

I forgot to take my various medications this morning, so my brain is sloshing around, no longer solid enough to neatly fit inside my skull. That, oddly enough, illustrates the final point I want to make about us and God perfectly:

It is only in fully owning up to and embracing our weakness that we are able to engage in authentic relationship with God.

We can’t go the full-on deterministic route and assign God the blame for every bad thing or every moment of suffering. Nor can we go the complete free-will route and decide that God is totally hands-off. Neither position accurately reflects what Scripture reveals to us about our wildly wonderful Creator and King. When I started this series of posts, I was hoping to be able to discern whether or not God causes suffering to come into our lives. I no longer think that’s the right question; we don’t know enough, can’t see enough, to able to nail that one down.

Now, I ask: What do You want me to here, Lord?

In my heart, I feel that His answer is: Trust Me. Rest in Me. Obey Me. Stay with Me.

I am weak. Frail. Fragile. My life is but a breath, the merest whisp of eternity. I can’t deny that, especially when I want so much to break down crying because the chemicals in my brain are out of whack and it will take awhile for the recently-ingested antidepressant to kick in.

Whether God ordains a thing to happen or allows a thing to happen, I think that He works to bring us face-to-face with our intense inability to maintain any semblance of strength. He is like a drill instructor in that; He seeks to peel back the layers of self-assurance and get to the heart of who we are. He then builds us into the people that He designed us to be. That process, I think, means coming back to this weakness over and over again. What does that song say? Heal the wound – but leave the scar.

In some strange way, I am content in not knowing exactly why I am sick and sad. I could spend the rest of my life trying to figure that out and never get anywhere. I’d rather travel the roads of healing that God has provided, gathering as many tools for the fight as I possibly can, all the while knowing that I will never, ever arrive at a place where I am not in desperate, aching need of Him.

The tears are coming down my cheeks now. My adopted niece likes to say, “But I’m just little.” That is what I feel my soul is crying out. I’m just little. I’m just awkward. I’m just weak. I’m just tired.

And yet I am strong. I am hidden in the folds of God’s robe, tucked safely against His heart. He is my shield, my defender. I might be little, but He is so beyond big. I might be awkward, but He moves with perfect grace. I might be weak, but He isn’t. I might be exhausted, but He never sleeps. I can go confidently forward with a Lord like that.

My journey to faith. (15)

 For all posts in the God with Whom we Are Uncomfortable series, go here.


The God with Whom we Are Uncomfortable: a Pleasure


Gentle Reader,

As soon as I opened my eyes this morning, I knew that there would be no leaving the house. I knew that it would be one of “those days,” when getting out of the bed and walking down the hall into the living room would be an accomplishment. That’s the nature of CFIDS. Yes, there are things I can do to manage the symptoms – avoiding certain foods, practicing good sleep hygiene, using the tools gained through these months of counseling to manage stress. Still, there are days like this. Days when it just doesn’t matter what kind of effort I’ve put forth. I’ll have to give way to the fatigue.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. – 2 Corinthians 12:10a (NKJV)

Oh, I want to shake Paul. I want to ask him how he can possibly take pleasure in these things.

Pleasure – eudokeo (yoodokeho): think it good; be well-pleased with

Infirmities – astheneia (astheniah): want of strength; weakness; infirmity; frailty; feebleness of health; sickness

Reproaches – oneidismos: a reproach as Christ suffered; disapproval; disappointment

Distresses – anaghe (anangkay): calamity

How can I think it a good thing to be laid out on the couch, drained of strength and desire? How can I be well-pleased with this body that surrenders so easily to every invader?

I suppose I should be used to being sick by now. I’ve always been the one who catches all the colds and all the flus. For as long as I can remember I’ve dealt with rashes, allergies, stomach ailments, pounding headaches and the like. This is nothing particularly new. And yet…I find myself hoping that I’ll wake up one morning and feel fine. That I’ll be in possession of health and vigor. That I’ll be able to bounce out the door instead of crawling like a slug.

If I’m honest, I’ll have to admit that I don’t yet have the maturity to have a right perspective on illness. But what is that right perspective? How do you move beyond the disappointment and the sense of isolation?

My comfort lies in God’s promised healing. Trouble is, that promise comes with a call to trust: I don’t dictate His timing. It may well be that I do not experience release from this until Heaven. That doesn’t mean He fails to come through – it means He knows more than I do.

That’s hard to deal with. That makes me uncomfortable. God does have good plans for us. I believe that. His good plan for me might involve sickness. It certainly seems to at this point. How can that be? Couldn’t I do so much more, be so much more, if my body were strong and healthy? Couldn’t I be of so much more use to Him?

That, I guess, is the real question: Is the value of a person, their usefulness in the Kingdom, tied up in how much they can do?

I’ve lived with the diagnosis of CFIDS for over a year-and-a-half now. I’ve lived with the mental diagnoses for seven months. Even after all that time, I am only just beginning to understand how illness reaches out and touches everything. Everyone.

All of me.

My journey to faith. (15)

  For all posts in the God with Whom we Are Uncomfortable series, go here.

The God with Whom we Are Uncomfortable: a Boast


Gentle Reader,

I find myself extremely resistant to looking at the rest of the passage I spent the month of January memorizing. It’s hard enough to consider that some pain may be directly ordained by God, worse yet to know that He will use forces of evil to work His will in my life. That is beyond my understanding in more ways than one. The rest of verse 12, however, takes the cake:

Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9b (NKJV)

What the what?

The Greek gives no additional insight into this sentence. Paul is straight up saying that he’s going to revel in his weaknesses. He connects this acceptance and glorying in frailty to an outpouring of Christ’s strength.

I’d like to lodge a protest against this. Believing Scripture to be God-inspired doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with what it has to say. I’m supposed to accept and even enjoy the fact that I’m sick and sad? I’m supposed to be looking for ways in which God’s power works through me? Seriously?

And yet…

I can’t get on this boasting in weakness train, but I will say that there is a level of intimacy that I am experiencing with God that I would not otherwise know without this pain and illness. No, I am not hearing an audible voice and there are no burning bushes. I don’t suddenly understand everything in the Bible. This intimacy is built upon desperation. I must know God. I have to stick close to Him. I don’t have many illusions about my own strength left, and those that do remain are being systematically knocked down by a Divine hand.

So, maybe that’s what Paul is talking about. I can’t imagine that he was actually happy to be in pain, but maybe the pain led him to a new experience with God, a new level of relationship.

There are certain things I know for sure now that I didn’t before. God is intimately involved in our lives. He is always faithful and ever-loving. I need to memorize Scripture if I want to have any chance against the dark, irrational thoughts that come so easily. It’s vital to cling to what I know, rather than what I feel. Other things that I used to be so sure about, like my calling, where my life was headed and my own abilities, have fallen by the wayside. The place I find myself in is extremely uncomfortable, but that is somehow better than where I was before.

Til we meet again.

My journey to faith. (15)

  For all posts in the God with Whom we Are Uncomfortable series, go here.