“Don’t be deceived my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above.” James 1:16-17
The definition of affliction can be defined as something that causes pain or suffering. This morning I awoke, for the first time in a long time, resting and accepting this truth: Affliction is a gift, because it keeps me ever dependent upon God’s strength and not my own.
It seems everything in me resists those two words (affliction/gift) being in the same sentence, as I have come to yet another crossroads in my journey with Christ. Short-sighted vision and perspective whispers in my ear, “The real gift would be for God to take the affliction away and fix everything.” As health issues surface with another family member, I am questioning. Do I really trust you God? Hasn’t there been enough?
How quickly I forget. His suffering, a gift to me...to all of mankind, leading to eternal life. In my amnesia, I sense God patiently putting His arm around me and asking this question, “How do you know this isn’t a gift?” Pause. My response. “Well, I can see you at work through all this, and yes, we all have grown and much good has come of it, but a gift? I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
If I’m being honest...rather than a “gift” it has often felt like a “take”. Taken opportunities, taken energy, taken finances, taken youth, taken time, etc. This explains the many nights I have asked God “why?” as opposed to saying, “thank you”. If someone takes something from me, I want to know why they did it...if they give me something I simply say thank you and receive it. Again He asks, “How do you know this isn’t a gift?” and two passages of scripture come to mind: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 and Habakkuk 3:17-19.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 the difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The scripture says that Satan gave Paul the thorn. God chose not to take it away...or as we might say, heal him. According to Paul, it was to keep him from becoming conceited. The gift: Paul experienced God’s grace and power resting on him...can’t think of a better gift than that. Paul seems to accept and embrace this thorn, confidently rejoicing and delighting in his weaknesses...living in a state of “expectancy”. Why? Because in his weakness he is strong. He receives the gift of God’s grace and power resting upon him. He receives God’s presence.
I guess I’ve had it all wrong. As much as I’ve seen growth and good things emerge from the circumstances of the last few years..and even said these words, “God is at work through all of this.” My ultimate hope? That the thorn would be taken away. I think on some days I was just mad. “God, you’ve got the divine power...it would be so easy for you to do this. I don’t get it.” I’m not sure I’ve realized it, but before today, in my limited perspective,thorn removal=gift from God. For some, that may be God’s decision...and it may still be for us one day. For now, however, I believe God is speaking to me and offering an invitation to a much larger party than the one I’ve been trying to attend. Will I open the gift he is offering or refuse it because it is not the one I had wanted?
I close with one of the strongest affirmations of faith in all Scripture. In light of the anticipated Babylonian invasion and devastation, I see Habakkuk trusting God. He has learned the lesson of faith to trust in God’s providence regardless of circumstances. He declares that even if God should send suffering and loss, he would still rejoice in his Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
A sense of relief and peace have washed over me and I am filled with energy and hope. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights...” Today, I choose to believe it.
Vic and Monique
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