November 19, 2017

Broken Wings

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong

(2 Corinthians 12:10).

One of the most difficult kinds of weakness to endure is physical disability. Even for the person of extraordinary spiritual strength, it is hard to keep a positive focus on God when the body is not able to function normally or is racked with pain. We understand, at least in theory, that spiritual concerns are more important than physical ones, but the fact is, our bodies are the instruments through which our spirits must do most of their work. When the instrument is broken, it isn’t easy to maintain joy and give thanks. What, then, should be our attitude toward physical impairments or diseases, especially those of a serious nature?

We should "go to the balcony" and look at each day from a larger perspective. If, for whatever reason, today is difficult, the thing we must always do is to see today against the backdrop of eternity. Today’s truth may be hard to bear, but it’s never the whole truth.

We should give thanks, if not for the pain, at least for the progress it produces in our character. There is no more challenging text in the New Testament than James 1:2‑3, which says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The testing is not pleasant, and none of us should be so naive as to suggest that the physical sufferer should just smile and be happy. Yet if suffering bathes our hearts in humility and reminds us to lean on God, it has done us a significant favor. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities,” Paul could say, “. . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We should understand that our troubles are not unique. Paul also wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). There may be no one in our personal experience who has had to endure what we are enduring, but that doesn’t mean no one ever has. Whatever our affliction, there are others who’ve coped with it — and some who’ve coped with worse. Truth to tell, every person we’ve ever met is hurting in some way. Some become bitter, while others become better.

 “I thank God for my handicaps; for, through them,

I have found myself, my work, and my God.”

Helen Keller