Saturday, February 4, 2017

Pain-full Lessons

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 35: Today, I will be grateful for pain-full lessons. 

I don't like pain... but I do love a word play.

This scripture speaks to me like few others. It is the one I cling to when I cannot catch my breath. It is like a blanket over my soul. 

When life throws curve balls... or plot twists, as I prefer to call them... there are no offered reasons. Just lessons in trust and learning through weakness. 

I understand weakness and pain. I live with it daily. I have nerve damage that limits what I can lift and what I can feel... and I live with chronic pain. I have learned that the choice is mine, to be positive or be miserable. 

Pain preceded a time of partial paralysis. Partial paralysis made me appreciate pain over not being able to move a limb. Experiencing movement again... even with pain... was for me, a better option. (Pain drugs were another trial... another story... I would rather have some pain.)

I have learned that pain isn't all bad. I am confident, people don't want to hear about it! No one enjoys a whiner. 

Pain has taught me to make better decisions to avoid some avoidable consequences. It has taught me to savor the days when it is minimal or I am too busy living that I am distracted. Still, there are times, I forget... or choose to push the limits and deal with the pain later. It can be exhausting.  

Pain protects. It reminds us we have limits and must stop or rest. Feeling no pain is dangerous. Really. I have been there. Pain makes us pause... and sometimes it stops us in our tracks. That is a good thing. Yes, pain can prevent further or worse injury. Feel it. Learn from it. Let it be the guide our Creator intended it to be. 

Pain can be physical or emotional. Training for one yields benefits for the other. 

Learning to endure physical trials... in my opinion... can make us emotionally stronger. Those who have survived and learned to thrive beyond emotional pain, can often endure physical trials. It is a choice. Some, in caring for others, find their own strength and endurance grows.

Two powerful examples: Corrie Ten Boom and Elisabeth Elliot

We can choose to accept trials as lessons and full of learning, or as useless pain with no benefit. 

No one was promised a perfect life... or even tomorrow. We were created for relationship with a God who dared to give us free-will and choice. We were planted here to have life. Life comes from The Vine and we are the branches. Pruning is painful, but in pruning...we bear more fruit. Better fruit. 

Our God will, also, allow plot twists to bring us closer to His heart. He is persistent. His grace is profound. His grace is sufficient. He is ENOUGH. 

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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. -2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul - who could prayerfully, powerfully access the power of Jesus to heal the hurting, was never healed of his own physical trial. Paul was never granted a pardon from his own physical trial. Why? 

Now... I can't truly answer that, only surmise. 

Saul/Paul was a powerful force for religion, but he missed the message in the cross. He was a champion of those who killed Christians. Saul watched Stephen die a martyr for Christ. Then... plot twist... Saul/Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus and met the resurrected Jesus. 

Terrified. Blind. But, without sight, Saul/Paul began to see. Saul changed. Not just his name to Paul, but Stephen became his brother in Jesus that day. He saw himself the most vile of sinners but was overwhelmed with God's mercy and grace. Jesus had experienced the freedom from his burden of sin. 

Paul wasn't crazy. He was a politically powerful Roman citizen... and a good Jew. He was passionate. He knew his religion, but missed the Messiah. He was on the wrong team and God needed his skills and his courage. He needed to humble him to a place that he could believe and accept a "Team Jesus" jersey (It is Super Bowl weekend) ... or reject Christ to choose what the world of political power and position had to offer. Paul became a MVP for the Lord... and then a life coach for other believers. 

Paul still had physical issues. His vision was restored but he has something that ailed him. Paul prayed for healing and God said, "No.". No reason. Just, "No". But when Paul pressed the Lord in prayer (because they were in a close relationship through prayer), the Holy Spirit revealed to him the most profound answer:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 

Wow!  Right? Paul might have been tempted to make his own way and forget to seek Christ's face in every mission. His sins were forgiven, but his personality was to take charge and run. Perhaps, his infirmity was the very thing that brought him to pause and pray; his weakness made him spiritually stronger.  

It would be insane to joyfully sign up for pain and suffering, but when it comes... it might be equally crazy to assume that it is God being silent or disinterested. This quote comes to mind:

"Have you prayed about it as much as you have complained about it." 

If not, do not assume God was silent or disinterested. 

For me... I was not granted complete healing... but God granted some significant relief. In a desperate pain filled moment, I cried out for help. Within 24 hours, he put me in a place to be prayed over powerfully. My pain was reduced and I experienced his power. I experienced first hand the connection between forgiveness and healing. (I wasn't injured intentionally. Time and truth cannot be rushed. We are not there, yet.) A partial healing is a real healing. 

Paul humbles me by his example. He teaches me with his words of encouragement. To be reminded of my weakness helps me stay focused on the one who provides for every need. Jesus is my enough... my manna... my daily bread. 

I am too self-reliant, too independent and a bit of a handful at times. Through weakness, I am forced to rely on him more when I come to the end of my human strength. 

I would not sign up for the struggle... but now that I know Him more... I don't know if I would trade what I have learned through the plot twists. 

He is good. I am not. 
He is faithful. I try to be. 
He is strong when I am not. 
I am his and he is mine... and that is where peace abounds and grace overflows.

Today, I will be grateful for pain-full lessons. 


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