“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. 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.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10)
Last night I learned my uncle passed away. He died of cancer at age 57. He passed away more quickly than my family thought he would pass, and they are taking his death hard right now. This news comes on the heels of my own personal trial. Three weeks ago I had big news all in one day: I found I was pregnant, having an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy and had to go to the emergency room to end the life-threatening pregnancy with a chemotherapy drug. This Friday I should have my blood drawn for the final time and find out the pregnancy has indeed ended. My husband and I have trying to have kids for a year, so this was hard news to accept. To make matters worse, I learned yesterday a coworker of mine got pregnant the same time I did, but she is having a successful pregnancy. I even saw the ultrasound picture of the baby. It unburied emotions I hadn’t dealt with, and all I could think of was that my ultrasound revealed the start of a baby forming where it shouldn’t be and how I had to put an end to the start of a new life. I came home from work yesterday in tears, and once I was feeling somewhat better, I got the news about my uncle’s death. I had been praying daily and often for him for awhile, as well as my family members affected by his circumstances. It was comforting to speak with my aunt, one of my cousins and my parents and to hear their voices late last night. They sounded calm and at peace with the situation. My uncle suffered greatly in the final stages of his life, and now he is free of his pain.
God never made a promise life would be easy after a person accepts Jesus. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Some Christians think they will be cushioned from the realities of this life. The truth is that God will use the stresses of life to perfect us into His image. We are pilgrims on this earth traveling to the high heavens, but our life here is a test. It is our struggles that expose our weaknesses, our frailty–our humanity. At times we feel powerless under our circumstances, but we must remember that “God works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11) Our trials are opportunities for us to grow in our faith and to develop our spiritual walk with Christ. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:5).
Our hardships are an opportunity for God to show us His love and His power and for Him to work in us, through us and around us. “You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the LORD your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear.” (Deuteronomy 7:19) I am sure in the days, weeks and months ahead God will reveal many wonderful things that have come from these trials I am facing right now. He is already showing me things about myself I didn’t know before, and I am blessed by this opportunity to learn and grow. I am learning ways my family is being healed and as my cousin said last night, mended, through the passing of my uncle. I always find it amazing how God can use a life, especially at its end, to do so many good things in the lives of countless others.
The Bible says we are to rejoice in our sufferings because they bring us closer to Christ. Jesus’ disciples remind us of this often. Peter said, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) Paul said, “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.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) James said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins so we wouldn’t have to do so. He knew what it felt like to experience metal anguish, physical pain, separation from His Father, disrespected, despised and rejected by men, and to die a criminal’s death. Yet He gave gave glory to God through it all. What will be your response as you are going through trials in this life?
We must remember when we go through a trial, we can do nothing in our own strength, but only in God’s strength. “Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. (2 Corinthians 3:4-5) It is easy to take matters into our own hands–it is human nature to do so. It also leads to disaster and falls outside of God’s will. We are nothing and can accomplish nothing without Christ. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We must look to God for wisdom, guidance and direction when the path is not clear, and we must trust in Him to take care our needs. In Isaiah we read, “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) God always knows what He is doing–not just around us, but what He is doing in us and through us. Knowledge comes from man, but wisdom is of God. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25) When we go with the strength of God, our trials can be used to glorify God and to bring Him praise and honor. He is lifted up on high as the Almighty God–El Shaddai. “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)
Our response to suffering and hardship in our lives could be an opportunity to please God. When you crush up flowers, you will have a pleasing aroma–but they must be mashed, beaten and pulverized to have this fragrance. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16) Jesus is the ultimate example of how suffering can bring glory to God. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). I think of the words to that beautiful song sung most recently by Michael W. Smith,
“Crucified laid behind a stone
You lived to die rejected and alone
Like a rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me
Thank goodness He did think of us! Our hope springs eternal because of the trials Jesus experienced!
Pray this prayer: “Dear Lord, thank you for the suffering and sacrifice Jesus made throughout His life and at the cross. Thank you Lord, that your one and only son, Jesus, died to take away my sins so that I may live eternally with you. May we delight in our sufferings knowing they will bring us closer to you and bring glory to your holy name. Please give me your strength, wisdom and guidance to get through this trial I am experiencing right now. May my response to this hardship bring you glory, honor and praise. May it be a pleasing aroma. Please use this trial to work in me, through me, and around me. May you be lifted us as God Almighty–El Shaddai. In Jesus’ precious name with ask these things of you. Amen.”