In this Wisdom Note, we continue our exploration of the trails of life that help us to understand how best to hike with a limp. I love life, and each day I endeavor to make the choice to live it in a rich and satisfying way. I realize that some days are more difficult to do so. Sometimes the rough and rugged trails that we have to navigate are difficult enough in themselves, but if we have to deal with a limp, or something that impedes us, it becomes challenging to take that next step.
In order to set the stage for the exploration of our trails this week, let’s look at someone else from the Bible that had to overcome obstacles to carry on. In his 2nd letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul reveals a struggle that he had.
This can be found in Chapter 12 verses 7 through 10, “Even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We see that Paul made the choice to accept his weakness, and even take pleasure in it. That brings us to Trail #5.
Trail #5 – You can choose.
While we don’t generally choose to suffer, we can choose how we respond to it. Only in our co-operative surrender does God have the freedom to mold us in His likeness. We do not stand outside of our being created; there is a decision, a will, and a choice to be made.
- If then we choose to be willing participants in the process that suffering takes us through, what can we discover?
- If we choose to expect to find God in the dark and desolate trails of our suffering, will we discover that hope and meaning is found in the midst of our suffering?
- How can we gain wisdom through suffering?
In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl would say this is possible and even essential for us to navigate periods of suffering well. He puts it this way, “The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.”
Frankl tells us just how vitally important our response to unavoidable suffering is when we choose to change ourselves when faced with suffering that we cannot change. This is when our suffering can become a tool in God’s transforming work in our lives. For Christians, it is as we remind ourselves of the purposes of God in the midst of our suffering and take hold of the comfort that He never leaves us or forsakes us that we find meaning, hope, and endurance for our most difficult times.
Sometimes suffering comes from choices that we have made in our lives, and as much as possible, we need to correct our actions and attempt to reverse those choices. But, there are other times that suffering is completely outside of ourselves, and we need to choose to endure and allow the suffering to transform us into God’s likeness.
Trail #6 – You are not alone.
Suffering will come, but you are not alone. Once we come to a place of knowing that God is with us, regardless of how we feel or what we’re going through, we can also acknowledge our need for others.
When we are going through the hard things in life, it is tempting to withdraw from others and hunker down, but that works against us. We need to look for and ask for help from anyone who can support us in our hard seasons. This may be our doctor, our counselor, our immediate family, and it most certainly should include our church family.
It is so difficult to tell others that we are suffering and yet people’s loving response and ongoing practical and prayer support is what will give us the strength to carry on. We need one another. We aren’t built to live alone. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
Trail #7 – You aren’t disqualified.
We need to remember that we’re in good company. God has made a practice of using people that hike with a limp. If you think about it, they are all that are available to Him. No matter what our struggles are, none of us is disqualified from loving Him and serving Him and His people with whatever we can bring to Him.
Let’s not be afraid of hiking with a limp. It’s a reminder of our encounters with God and with the realities of life. Let’s choose to embrace the transformative process that God uses in our hard times and grow deeper into being His people marked by humility and faith.
As one of Jesus’s closest friends, Peter wrote in his 1st letter Chapter 1 verses 6 and 7, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
We have completed the 7 trails of hiking with a limp which were: perspective, planning, building, seasons, choice, togetherness, and qualification. This gives us what we need to know to carry on each day, even through struggles.
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