The God with Whom we Are Uncomfortable: a Pleasure

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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 Stake

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Gentle Reader,

One of my goals for 2012 is to memorize 12 passages of Scripture. There are no parameters, no theme. I simply want to replace the negative junk that so often cycles through my mind with God’s truth.

And what a truth I chose to start with.

I didn’t realize it when I chose 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 as my starting passage that my discomfort with God would be brought screaming to the surface. Tucked within the confines of Paul’s second letter to the fractious Corinthians are words that Christians have drawn encouragement from for centuries. “When I am weak, then I am strong” and all that.

Ah, but let’s look at the first verse:

Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (NKJV)

Consider the original Greek words and their meanings (presented here as best a non-scholar can):

Exalted above measure – huperairomai (hooperaheeromahee): lift or raise up over some thing; lift one’s self up; be haughty; carry one’s self haughtily; behave insolently

Abundance – hyperbole (hooperbolay): throwing beyond; superiority; excellence; preeminence; beyond measure; exceedingly

Revelations – apokalupsis (apokaloopsis) – laying bare; making naked; disclosure of truth; instruction; manifestation; appearance

Thorn – skolops: pointed piece of wood; pale; stake; sharp stake; splinter

Flesh – sarx: body; sensuous nature of man; living creature

Given – didomi (didomee): give; bestow a gift; grant; let have; supply; furnish; necessary things; give what is due

Messenger – aggelos (angelos) – envoy; one who is sent

Buffet – kolaphizo (kolafidzo) – strike with the fist; give one a blow; maltreat; treat with violence

In other words

Lest I began to behave insolently because of the immeasurable amount of truth disclosed to me, a stake – a gift – was stabbed into my body, at the hand of one sent to beat me.

The depth of this verse comes to light when looked at in context, a journey that we will take together in future posts. For now, think about the fact that Paul clearly states that his pain was necessary, that it was even a gift, meant to keep him from improper pride in the face of God.

That, right there. That’s what makes me uncomfortable.

Does Scripture, and this passage specifically, teach that God actively brings pain into the lives of those He loves?

My journey to faith. (15)

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