On the evening of April 21st, my wife’s oldest sister passed away after a long battle with cancer. Later that night I had what we think was a bad reaction to prescribed medication and I blanked out at the wheel and totaled my car. My airbag didn’t deploy, so I face-planted into the steering wheel and ended up with two very large black eyes, two completely bruised arms, bruised ribs and a wrenched back. While never losing consciousness, I couldn’t recognize my wife at the hospital. I somehow lost 3+ days from my memory. A few days later, our very affectionate 19 year-old cat had to be put to sleep. And then my family doctor told me I needed to lose 90 pounds. I was on the verge of a serious personal pity party.
You’ve all had times like this, where it seems that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It’s now four weeks later and we can look back with at least a little perspective. The black and blues are gone. Life without my sister-in-law is still going on and we know she is in a better place. We no longer expect to feel our cat nuzzling up to us–wanting to be picked up. I do still have sore ribs and my back muscles are still spasming whenever I do anything, but I’m alive and back to being aware. And I’ve lost 10 pounds.
Someone once asked me how these kind of things could happen to a Christian and quoted Paul, The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). But we need to understand what that verse is saying. It says that God will not allow Satan to bring temptation, or enticement to sin, into our life that is too much for us to say no to it. When we are tempted to sin, God will make a way for us to resist it. That is because He wants us to live holy lives, just as Christ who calls us is holy.
It does not say that we will not suffer hardship and loss. In fact, In his second letter to the Corinthians he writes, For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
It’s important to finish what Paul had to say about these burdens. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us (II Corinthians: 1:9-10).
When we face disasters and circumstances that are beyond our abilities to handle, we have two choices. Like the cartoon images above, we can strap them all to our own back and struggle to carry them–using all our energies and talents simply trying to survive. Or we can pack them up and give them as an offering to the only One who can lift them for us–allowing us to continue onward on the path that He wants us to follow.
That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:10). Trying bear up my own just wasn’t working. Admitting to my own weakness gave God the opening to give me His strength. And that has made all the difference.