2 Corinthians 12:7-10
The Message (MSG)
Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and 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.
I remember a conversation I had shortly after my son Spencer died. I was curious about what other mothers who had lost children had to say, yet cautious. I knew I was incredibly frail and just the slightest letdown could send me spiraling into a black hell. I didn’t know it then, but I was looking for some hope.
So a woman about my age came by, offering a book and a plant. Her son had died in a car crash eight years earlier. Since then she had gone through a divorce, her two surviving children had suffered from mental breakdowns and drug addiction and she shared with me how she was still in counseling, not out of the woods yet. My mind reeled. I grew up in a home wrecked by tragedy. No God, not again. Then, as she was leaving, she turned to me and said, “You’ve been given a gift. “ and with a hug, went on her way. A gift? This is a gift? Planning your child’s burial? Writing his obituary? I was pessimistic and thought that perhaps she suffered from some perverse twisted notion of God’s sovereign dispensation. I didn’t want the gift. Please, take it back.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who broke her neck diving at age 17 and has spent 45 years in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic, said in a recent interview that she would thank God for her wheel chair when she gets to heaven, before it’s thrown away. She also refers to the “stewardship of her paralysis” here on earth. Stewardship is defined as the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. Something entrusted to one’s care….something of value.
Tada also is quoted as saying, ““Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” I know this is dangerous doctrine to some. Yet can I say after 11 years, that I would not trade my son’s coffin for the “gift” of suffering God has given me?
My first answer is, thankfully, it’s not even an option God would allow and soon enough I get to see Spence again, with no more goodbyes, ever. But I believe 2nd Corinthians 12:9 say it the best. Three times Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed. What is your thorn? Sickness, a wayward child, loss? You have cried out to God probably more than three times. Yet the Message translation of this verse really caught my attention.
I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.
I love the story of Jacob and how he wrestled all night with the Lord. Then at dawn, he is “touched” on the hip and it is thrown out of joint. Jacob walked then with a limp, a sign of humility and yielding within his struggle with God. And God blessed him. I’m pretty sure Jacob also saw his limp as a “gift” and not a handicap.
I don’t think the precious mother who lost her son and told me I had a “gift” knew the priceless love and hope found in Jesus, but she had stumbled upon truth. When we are crushed in life, we are brought to our knees. Where we go from there is up to us, but God is there for those who are humbled, who say, Yes Lord, I can’t wrestle with You. He redeems, He blesses and He does accomplish what He loves.
I want to finish well and know that I have been a good steward of the “gift”. In my weakness, may the glory and power and strength of my Lord Jesus be glorified so that I can skip across the finish line, even with a limp. Can you take your handicap and thank Him for this gift, that it may be poured out as an offering for His glory? As the apostle Paul says, “I just let Christ take over.” Simple, not easy, but glorious to the end.