Unfortunately, a couple weeks ago it was fairly obvious that I was limping as I walked. I had hurt my back rescuing some orphans from a burning building, is what I would like to say happened. The truth is less exciting, that I was sitting at an odd angle and hurt my back. For a week I struggled to stand up or sit down and could not put on my right shoe without help. With a chuckle I thought to myself, “I am twenty-six, I shouldn’t have to deal with this!”
On that Sunday, an elder led our mind before communion with a reminder of Jacob from Genesis. He talked about how Jacob led a tumultuous life and was usually running from his troubles, but an encounter with a man/angel left him with an injured hip. Now Jacob could no longer run from his issues. Well, I am not much of a runner, but I could empathize with that pain.
The discussion on Jacob started a train of thought that helped me in my frustrating pain. Jacob’s pain was a blessing in disguise because now he had to deal with his problems. Then, perhaps my pain was a blessing in disguise as well. I think of Paul who claimed, “a thorn was given me in the flesh” (2 Cor 12:7). His ambiguity keeps us from knowing what exactly ailed him, but we know he suffered from something physical. Paul prayed for this ailment to be relieved by God three times, but the Lord denied his request saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (12:9).
Paul’s evaluation of this pain has given me a fresh perspective of my pain. Paul says his pain was to, “keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations … to keep me from becoming conceited” (12:7). His pain had a humbling effect that was needed for Paul, who had many reasons to be prideful. How could Paul boast in his spiritual powers if he was afflicted by a mere pain like a common person? It served to remind Paul that despite his blessed gifts from God he was still just a human. The pain that Paul felt served a purpose in his spiritual life–though it felt like a curse, it was a blessing.
My pain has reminded me of the temporary nature of this life and this body. With every ache I try to remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” [2Co 5:1-4 ESV]
I can’t speak for you but my tent was groaning. Every time I stood up I let out an audible groan. When I just thought of having to get up and the pain it would cause me in my mind, I groaned. Those couple days I was longing to put on that heavenly dwelling. I sure hope that when the Lord returns and my body is transformed into a spiritual body that all pain will cease. That pain served as a reminder that my body is going to be clothed somehow with life. With this understanding, like Paul said, “I am content with weaknesses.” The weaknesses make me depend on the strong God. That is why, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (12:10).