Have you ever felt you weren’t good enough? Maybe it was a job you submitted an application for. You figured, “They won’t call because I’m not good enough for them.” What about your spouse or children? Do they say things like, “You’re a failure” or “I can’t believe I married you”? What about your job? Do you get a review that appears to be more of a bashing session than one of encouragement and guidance? Whatever it is for you, I think we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. At some point, we don’t believe in ourselves or what we are capable of. What if I told you that not believing in yourself or your capabilities is exactly where you need to be to succeed? Sounds crazy?
From as long as I can remember, our society has gone out of their way to say, “You can do it” or “Don’t let anyone stop you from being happy”. We have heard from motivational speakers that encourage us to go after things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. We hear phrases like “What if…” or “Just imagine…” Our minds are flooded with positive and motivational speeches. This message has even entered the church.
You can hear preacher after preacher say things like, “God wants you to be happy” or “God doesn’t want you to be sick” or “Remember if God is love, then why would he want bad things to happen to you”. It makes us feel good about ourselves and life. We think it is exactly what we need to be motivated to do whatever it is we think God wants us to do. Let me tell you that if you have heard this, it is positive motivational hogwash and is completely unbiblical. Here is what I mean….
Someone we love has just heard they have cancer and only have about 6 months to live. Doctors express that quality of life is better than extending someone’s life by a day or two. We pray and pray and pray only to find out our loved one died in less than a month from original diagnosis. It is here we begin to question what we believe. We question whether God is a good God. We question whether God exists. We wonder why such bad things happen to good people. We begin to ask ourselves life changing questions with all sorts of life changing answers. But no matter what answer we may come up with, it’s never the one we want to hear. So…where is the positive motivational hogwash now?
You see, our disappointment, our questioning our beliefs is not because of the situation or words that others speak to us. Our problem is not the preacher or Scripture…it’s us. We are the problem. We placed our expectations on words that have no meaning. We placed our desires onto a theoretical divine vending machine in the hopes that by pressing C4, we would get a biblical snickers or bag of Christ chips. Instead by pressing C4, the situation we are facing explodes and the shrapnel of that vending machine cuts us to the core, giving us the opportunity to question everything we believe.
I heard it was said that the difference between expectation and reality is disappointment and depression. This is so true. We expect to retire from a job only to realize that we cannot so we become disappointed and depressed. We relied on our expectation and not on our current reality. We expect to get married and live to a ripe old age together, only to realize that our spouse isn’t who we originally thought they were, so when we become divorced, we question if “until death do us part” is just a fairy-tale. Our expectations or dreams become the focus of our lives and when they don’t work out, we question why.
But what if I told you there was a better way? What if you didn’t have to have the high false expectations but rather had the reality that God has the best in mind for you through your problems. Before you make any assumptions, let me first say, that I am all for encouragement and living a positive life. I am all for going after dreams and goals. I am all for having a positive outlook on an impossible situation. This doesn’t mean that I am a hopeless positive motivational speaker. It means that I believe God has a better way for us to look at life.
In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul is explaining to the church in Corinth about his “thorn” in his side. There is much speculation as to what this “thorn” was. Some believe his eyes were deteriorating causing him to be blind. Others say it was fleshly temptations pressing on him. In reality, it doesn’t make a difference what the “thorn” was. Rather it is what the “thorn” represents that is important.
Paul begins this chapter by talking about boasting. Boasting is a way we brag about what we’ve done. It is riddled with self-sufficiency and pride. The church in Corinth needed their spiritual ballooned head to be deflated, so Paul begins by telling them about impossible tasks people, he knew, had experienced. He then goes on in verse 5 to say…
“I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weakness.”
That doesn’t sound right? Boast about his weakness? Paul is very specific with this word we translated as “weakness”. This word “ἀσθένεια (as-then’-i-ah) means to bear trials and troubles. It means that instead of boasting about who we are or what we know, Paul would rather boast about the problems that he is facing. But why would Paul say this? What was it that brought Paul to an understanding that his problems are what he needs? Our answer is in verse 9, where the Lord tells him…
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
What the Lord was telling him was, “Hey don’t worry about what happens to you or around you. I know. All you need to concern yourself with is that what I have to offer you, my grace, is sufficient. In fact, my power is perfectly shown in your trials and troubles.”
This declaration has become very evident to me in recent days. Over the last few months, I have been fighting disappointment and depression on various scales. I can’t get into too much detail, only to say that the Lord has taught me that my expectations are not his will. I had become so enamored by things I want and desire that I temporarily forsook what God has planned for me. I wanted one thing, but God desired another. So what does God expect from us?
First, God desires our obedience to what he has placed before us. In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel tells King Saul, that obedience is better than sacrifice. King Saul was supposed to wait for the prophet to do the sacrifice. Instead of waiting, King Saul became impatient and did the sacrifice himself. Saul did what he wanted rather than waiting for God’s will. The result was that King Saul lost his throne and his life, just as God had told Samuel.
Second, God desires us to be patient. In Romans 12, we are given an outline of how to live. One of those traits is to be patient during trials and troubles. This is where I struggle the most. Instead of patiently waiting for God’s will to be accomplished in my life, I would rather jump into the cold water and get used to it. However, what I readily forget is that the cold water I want to jump into will produce hypothermia and cause my spiritual self to freeze and become useless. I can’t do anything positive if my spiritual body is frozen. What I had to realize is that God is warming up the water, just enough for me to jump in and survive. It may not be a heated pool that I can relax in, but it will be the best temperature for me to be motivated to accomplish His will in my life.
Third, God desires us to become someone more. There is something called “trial by fire”. It is a way to purify precious metals. The precious metal is heated up to a specific temperature as to bring the unwanted materials to the surface. The precious metal is not harmed. It is being purified as to be used for the master’s purpose. The “dross” or impure material comes to the surface and then the master carefully removes the impurities to expose what is useful to him. This is what Paul was explaining to the church in Corinth.
No matter what we go through in life, if it hurts and it’s not our fault, then take it as God is putting you into the fire to reveal His pure and perfect will in your life. You and I are precious metals to God, therefore, we can expect problems to come our way to make us more like Him.
Sometimes, many times, we go through problems because of this purification process. This is a life-long process. We will only escape this process once the Lord determines it is our time to come home. So instead of rejecting or fighting our trials and problems, embrace them, because God is using them to make us better and more useful to Him.
Paul expressed how he would boast in his weakness. Why? Because Paul knew he was being purified into something God wants to use. Therefore, bring on the trials! Just as Paul had this outlook, so should we. When cancer is our diagnosis, rejoice in how God will use it to bring others to Him. When we lose our jobs, rejoice because He has a plan to bring you to a new job, even when you don’t know it. When our spouse or child reject us, rejoice because the Creator of the all things loves you so much that He sent Jesus Christ to die for you. He accepts you for who you are. Rejoice in that.
If we desire to become a better person, we desire a good thing. However, if we desire to become a better person without problems, then we desire a fantasy. We can only become better if God allows us to be purified through trials and tribulations. We may not understand everything now, but one day, it will be as clear as the clearest day on the coastline. The waves may come, the storm may be in the horizon, but our security is in the Rock we stand upon, Jesus Christ.
Boast not in what you can do, rather boast in what God has done during your problems. How have you become a better person because of the problems in your life? What has God taught you in the impossible tasks before you? Can your story encourage someone else to stay the course? No matter what, take heart, our disabilities are God’s provision to show His power to a lost and dying world.
God bless and encourage someone today.