Sometimes our problems exist for a reasonably short season and then they improve or go away. Sometimes our problems last for what seems a lifetime, what I call a long-term problem. I have had such a problem. Over a period of approximately fifty years, I have had what I will refer to as a “life challenge” and I have tried and tried to make it go away. I have prayed countless prayers, I have tried psychological “tricks” or motivations, I have tried self-disclosure to support groups and the list goes on and on. Nothing worked. When I turned to God, I tried numerous approaches, praying many different kinds of prayers, feeling guilt and remorse, seeking forgiveness, receiving forgiveness and then returning to the same old problem. When I was born again, I thought the trouble would go away but it did not. I have written many times on this blog about how we can “find Jesus” but the same old troubles follow along behind us after our born again event. That is what happened. After giving my life to Christ, I moaned and moaned to God about why He did not take away my problem.
He chose not to.
Until one day.
He led me to Second Corinthians Chapter Twelve. I was very familiar with this chapter; in fact I had spent a lot of time thinking about the meaning of Apostle Paul’s words, about his “painful physical ailment which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud.” Paul says he prayed to God three times to take this ailment away and God’s answer was “My grace is all you need, for my power is strongest when you are weak.” Paul then writes he is content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I found Second Corinthians when I was in the midst of another painful time for me, bemoaning the fact that I had grown weak and indulged in my long-term “problem.” However, this time was different. I sensed something was changing this time. I don’t know where that feeling came from, but I just felt that I was on the verge of taking a new road in my life. That change began to happen when I was sitting in a pharmacy and as I was waiting for my prescription to be fille. I looked on the floor and I saw a small slip of paper. On that paper was 2nd Corinthians, 12: 10.
I knew this specific verse, in fact I had meditated on it many times in the past, but feeling so downtrodden at this time, I saw the words in a different way. I was stunned. That’s why I had suffered so long. That’s why I could not overcome my problem. God was using it to draw me close.
I still wanted it to go away, and for the first time in fifty years God was going to put this problem behind me.
This day I knew God was giving me strength that I had never had before. Deep within my being, I started saying new words to myself. I had kept a big journal of my efforts to stop my problem and it was a record of periods of success and colossal failures. The main thing is that it was a daily reminder of the fact that this problem existed, that it was a theme of my life, that it owned me. I got the strong feeling that the best thing I could do that day was shred my journal, and when I did that, new thoughts kept coming up in my mind. “David, you no long have this trouble. You are better than this problem.”
It was a major change. After fifty years, God took away my “long-term problem.”
I knew it was gone…
I don’t miss it. I know it had to happen on His time, in His way. It was not me doing this; it was Him. I had struggled with this long enough. It was time for God and me to close the book on this struggle.
J.I. Packer* writes that “God does not shield us from assault by the world, the flesh and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology; but rather by exposing us to those things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to him more closely” .
In other words 2nd Corinthians 12: 10.
So much of the Bible is God telling us that He is strong; He is a firm defense and a refuge for us in our times of trouble. We are the weak ones, trying to find our way out of problems, but we fail to find the “right road” out of our quagmires.
We live in a culture where pride is lauded. It is not appropriate to admit our weakness; that makes us look small in the eyes of others. When Paul writes “keep me from being puffed up with pride,” he is saying that admitting weakness is his way to lean on God. “God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn thankfully to lean on him” [Packer, 250].
For so many years, I feel I did not approach my problems properly. I had a prideful attitude that I could conquer my troubles. I had too much self-confidence, too much trust in myself. When I turned to God, I moaned and moaned, asking for forgiveness, knowing all the time that I would return to my problem in the future. I was not truly repentant.
What Packer says about this is that most of us need to learn to “wait on the Lord.”
We push, we pull, we weep, we wail, we gnash our teeth and nothing happens. When will God step in to rectify our troubles? When He wants to, when the time is right, when we have suffered long enough.
As we wait for resolution, we must get the most benefit we can out of the wait. We can draw closer to God and we can have periods of unbelievable strength as long as we know where that strength comes from. It does not come from us; it comes from Him.
Paul gives credit where credit is due: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
He knew where his strength comes from.
It came from God………