2 Corinthians 12:9 is a Bible verse that comes up rather frequently, at least it does for me. It comes up sometimes in random places like a devotional I happen to stumble upon, a cross reference during a Bible study I’m listening to, a post in an image on social media, and just the still small voice I hear when Jesus knows I need to hear it again.
Early on in my times of health crisis, I welcomed this verse with open arms and thought, “Yes! His grace will totally be sufficient, this is an awesome promise!”, yet the further I went along and the further I struggle, I have had times of doubt in this. The times when I am in so much pain I’m drooling and can’t even utter a full cry of pain. The times when I seemingly lose function overnight and am not able to do things I need to just to maintain some level or normalcy.
There was actually a period of time when I wondered how this promise was manifesting because I believed Him, but I wasn’t seeing it in action at all in my life. I knew in my mind that His grace would somehow be sufficient and that His strength would somehow be made perfect in my weakness but I wasn’t seeing or feeling it. Yes, I was breathing and alive everyday, but my body hurt and wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do nor allowing me what I needed it to do. How and when was His strength going to be made perfect in my pathetic weakness, both my literal muscular weakness and my emotional weakness? It was awhile of pondering this and watching and waiting to see how this promise was going to manifest for me, hoping and praying it would be soon. You know to this day, I’ve never gotten the answer I was looking for and I think I know why. Because I was trying to dictate what His grace should look like in my life, instead of simply receiving His blessing of new mercies and all sufficient grace for that day. I was being disappointed, especially on the days that were pretty bad pain wise, not because His grace was insufficient or because His strength wasn’t being made perfect in my weakness, but because I wasn’t seeing it through His perspective. I can’t say that I now truly see it through His perspective, but I definitely see it a lot more clearly than I did before.
When I started looking beyond how I felt, beyond what I wanted and hoped for, beyond what I thought was what it should look like, you know what I saw? When I get up and am in pain or my symptoms start rearing up, I may have to move more slowly but I can still move. That while I may not be capable of doing my hair and makeup the way I’d like, I can still brush my teeth and wear a hat. That while I may not be able to keep my house spotlessly clean or make dinner every night, I can still sit with my girls and have a husband who selflessly and cheerfully makes dinner. That while I may not be able to walk around and do physical service in church or on mission trips, I still have a voice that allows me to talk to my brothers and sisters in Christ and be used by God to minister and edify them in conversation and through leading worship. That while there are some days I’m needing to be a couch potato, I can still write a blog post hoping to encourage anyone who happens to stumble upon it. That regardless of my physical inabilities, it’s by His grace that I have spiritual abilities and any physical strength to do them at all.
As more people have come to know that I do struggle with physical disabilities, I keep hearing similar things from them, that they didn’t even know anything was wrong with me and God’s strength is shining through because I have so much joy and strong faith. I tell ya, that is God’s grace and strength because I don’t feel like I’m a bundle of joy or super faith-filled. It’s purely by His grace that I can do what He calls me to do as a wife, mother, and servant of Christ without just giving up, calling it quits, and being an all out whiner and complainer.
On this journey of Him changing my perspective of His grace being sufficient for me and His strength being made perfect in my weakness, I have gone up, down, and all around. I’m going to be brutally honest, I’ve had periods (yes, more than one) where I tell God that I don’t want His grace to be sufficient anymore, I just want to be healed. I plead with Him over and over and just don’t understand why if He healed all those people throughout His earthly ministry and the gospels state that He had compassion on them, then why isn’t He healing me?! I haven’t gotten a straight answer to why He isn’t healing me right now, but I do believe that He will heal me eventually. I do know that He showed me through the lives of others before me, that so many had weaknesses that He didn’t take away yet He used them mightily for His glory. Yes, their lives were hard. Yes, they also prayed for it to be taken away. Yes, that never happened yet that didn’t stop them from pushing forward in their calling and allowing His sufficient grace to keep them going, to be shining lights as His strength was being made perfect in their weakness. It was when I realized that the promise is that His grace IS sufficient for me. That’s a fact. But I can very stubbornly not accept His grace, trying to power through on my own, and wonder why it doesn’t seem His grace is sufficient in my life. I’ve made it a habit to daily ask for grace upon grace and accept it in faith, knowing that it has indeed been sufficient and will continue to be because of who He is. He is good and He is unchanging. Does this mean I don’t ever revert back to a period of just plain wanting to be healed? No, I am human and like a dumb sheep will do stupid things…like complaining to God that I don’t want His amazing grace and want something He isn’t offering me at the moment.
Now before I continue into the next segment of how my perspective on this has been changing, I want to preface this with, I don’t know exactly what God has in store for my future or how He plans to use me. I’m going to relate to Paul because that’s how I came through this process but I’m not in any way saying I’m someone who is going to be used like Paul was. I mean that would be totally awesome, because Paul was used in such great ways that brought God glory and in furthering His kingdom and I am open to whatever God wants to use my life for, but I am happy and satisfied however He chooses to use me.
With that said, my perspective on the purpose has changed. We see Paul mention before verse 9 that he was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. I had read this before many times and though I knew it in my mind, I never really stopped to really think upon and ponder it. Quite honestly when I think of Paul, I don’t think of a prideful man. I think of a broken man who was determined to continue in his zeal for Jesus and get the gospel out to as many people as he could before his death. So for him to say that he was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from getting conceited is like…so Paul had a tendency to be prideful? Well, he was extremely educated and well known amongst the Jewish communities (like totes celebrity status, haha!), and he was a human being with a sinful flesh nature like us, so yeeeaah, I guess that does make sense.
This will probably come of no surprise to you, but I too have a tendency to be prideful. My husband and I got taught a big lesson in pride by God early on in our marriage. God had provided immensely for us monetarily and we became like King Nebs (the one in Daniel 4). Then the humble pie journey started with my husband leaving his job for what was actually a moral decision. The thing was, in our eyes this didn’t freak us out because we were trusting in his job experience and the nest egg in our savings account we had heaped up for ourselves…aaand took a year and a half long for God to allow us to completely deplete all while breaking down our pride and trust in all other things besides Him. It was a year and half of my husband not working, provision by God in seriously miraculous ways, shattering our pride into pieces, and teaching us to be fully dependent on Him before He restored us to be financially steady. So we got our major spank from our Father that whipped our prideful butts into shape, yet there’s still always that tendency to be prideful in one way or another.
I honestly hate that fact. I wish I could kill my pride and it would never creep back up, but I’m unfortunately not going to get rid of it for good on this side of eternity. So I’ll get to my point (sorry and thanks for following me down that rabbit trail). In the same way that Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from becoming conceited, I too think that God may be continuing to allow me to go through this time without healing to keep me from becoming conceited and really learn how to keep my pride in check. It doesn’t take being used by God is some huge and known way to become conceited. It can literally be anything, anyway that God chooses to use us that can cause pride to creep in and then bam! we think we’re more than we are and forget that we’re merely His vessel chosen for HIS glory, not our own.
I do operate in a gifting and ministry that is more seen by people and I know that pride is certainly something that can be an issue and I never want it to be. It has taken a bit of time for me to be able to say this honestly from my heart, but I am truly able to say this now: if my health issues are something that God is using to keep my pride in check, then so be it and I don’t want Him to heal me. If He knows that even later on down the road, maybe He would call me to something or use me in some way that would cause my heart to be prideful, I would much rather deal with the health issues and have His sufficient grace, letting His strength be made perfect in my weakness, than to ever allow pride to creep in and wreak havoc. I don’t ever want to steal His glory, I don’t ever want to stumble anyone, I don’t ever want to think I can do anything on my own, and I don’t ever want there to be any kind of break or dividing factor in my relationship with my God.
Do I still pray for healing? Oh yes! I do, but it is always accompanied by “God, if You’re using this to keep me from becoming conceited, then please don’t take it away. Just give me Your sufficient grace everyday and let me shine bright for You, let my weakness be a conduit for Your strength and goodness to shine through. I want You to be glorified in all that I am and all that I do. I really want to be healed, but I want Your will to be done more than my own.”
With this perspective change has come a freedom. I knew all this health stuff has already been bringing me closer to Him, and I have learned to kiss that wave, but it has taken me from inward looking and trying to shape how His grace would work in my life, being so focused on the healing I want, to outward looking and seeing how He is using my weakness to bring Him glory and keeping my pride in check. Again, as this post comes to a close, I don’t want you to think that I have somehow figured out this magical formula to the ultimate perspective shift on God’s grace. Yes, I have gotten to this point, seen this perspective so far, but I still struggle every time I pray for healing and pray that His will would be done. Whenever He tells me, “My grace is sufficient for you” my initial mental response is to be discouraged, just wanting what I want, but my spirit so badly wants to align with His will that I choose to cast my cares on Him and take the moments to pause and remind myself that He has good for me. So ultimately, if that good includes keeping my health issues, then so be it.