I was in a women's Bible study at our church. It was a fabulous Bible study, full of truth and challenges. But I was apathetic. I really did not get into the study as much as I had expected to. As I wondered why I was struggling to complete the fairly easy daily studies, I began to realize that my life was very, very comfortable and I was suffering from apathetic-lazy-itis. I had a fantastic, decent-paying job at a district I had always wanted to work for, I was already done with my master's degree at the age of 26, I had a healthy, perfect son, my husband loved me intensely, his job was going well, and we were deep in the middle of plans to expand our small house into our dream house to make room for lots more future children. At this point in my life, I was on autopilot. I had things under control, and there was little need for God to intervene in my affairs. This was leading to a feeling of apathy and complacency that had my spiritual life in a stranglehold.
One night as our study was wrapping up, a friend asked for prayer requests. I didn't have any big supplications that evening (since my life was nearly perfect), and I believe that I was the last person to talk. "I just need some humility. I'm realizing that I feel like I don't need God and that's not how I want to live my life." My friend, the Bible study leader, eyed me and told me that she was hesitant to pray for that, but that she would if it's what I needed.
Within two months of that prayer, my perfect life felt like it had been shattered into a million pieces. A doctor told my husband that he had about a year to live. My son was diagnosed with food allergies. My husband started a heavy chemotherapy regimen that virtually erased the chances of us having any more children, even if he were to live through his deadly cancer. I was laid off from my dream job because of the volatile financial situation in Michigan. Because of the uncertainty of our future, our house plans were placed on top of the refrigerator and shoved to the back, not to see the light of day for a long, long time. I felt (and still sometimes feel, to be honest) like my entire future had been ripped away from me. I used to read a lot about the Salem Witch Trials and how some people were crushed to death as punishment for their "witchcraft" by having a large stone placed upon their chest. My husband's cancer diagnosis and the loss of my job felt like a gigantic boulder had been pressed down upon me. I had no way of getting that stone removed. I had nowhere to run. I couldn't move the stone from my chest on my own.
2 Corinthians 12: 7b-10 (The Message)
...so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
Ryan and I were flying to Minnesota last December. Something really, really bitter had just happened to me that evening that had highlighted the fact that my life was in stagnation while others' lives were moving forward. I was especially peeved with God that evening and He and I had exchanged words, if you know what I mean. "God, WHY have you not removed this situation yet? Why is my husband not cured? Why does he even have cancer in the first place? Why can't I have more children RIGHT NOW? Why did you pick us to go through this? God, please heal my husband! I am so angry that you have not fixed this yet!" As the tiny, blinking lights of Wisconsin passed below me, tears streamed down my face, and flight attendants ensured that they only talked to Ryan, NOT to me. "Leave that crazy girl in row 4 alone. I think she's have a nervous breakdown."
Luckily, I have gotten far enough in this journey that I am starting to realize that when things feel like they're imploding around me, I should run to God and not from God. On the airplane, I grudgingly opened the Bible app on my phone and began reading 2 Corinthians12 and about the thorn in Paul's flesh.
The thorn had been delivered by Satan, but allowed by God. Why?
The reason in Paul's life: so that he wouldn't become boastful about the visions he was seeing.
The reason in my life: so that I would learn what it meant to live through Christ's strength instead of my arrogant self.
How awesome do you think you are? Do you have your whole life under control, like I did? Well, the truth is that you don't. At some point in our lives, we are going to go through trials. Maybe you're reading this, and Ryan's cancer is one of the biggest tests of your faith that God has put you through. Perhaps God is not allowing you or your partner to get pregnant, or you have experienced the heartache of miscarriage. Maybe you're sick. Maybe you or a family member has unexpectedly lost their job or you've had to uproot your entire life and move somewhere else. Perhaps someone that you love very much has died, and you are grieving deeply.
We are all weak, and especially weak and vulnerable when tragedy, sickness, or loss happens to us.
But the weaknesses that we experience here on earth are an opportunity in our faith journey. When we are traveling through the deserts of life, parched, tired, with the hot sun beating down on us, this is the prime moment to either seek out the shade and living water that has been provided for us through Christ, or we can try to cross that desert on our own strength, thereby withering away in our faith and ultimately rejecting the provision that we have through Him alone.
His power is made perfect in our weakness. Celebrate weakness. It happens. Draw close to your Savior and you will experience peace and power like you've never seen in the lulling, apathetic times of comfort and prosperity in your life.