Suffering to Glorify God
Much of life can be viewed through the lenses of sufferings and blessings. It is not typical for one to desire to suffer, so we are driven to seek alleviation of such pains. In their prayers to the Lord, they petition the Lord to remove such hardships. What do we make of it when He does not remove the malady from one’s life? Is it possible that the affliction is not a mere mark of suffering, but truly, it is a blessing to the faithful?
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:7–10
Paul’s Thorn in His Flesh
In verse seven (2 Cor. 12:7), Paul provides us a surprising revelation. Though this man of God had done so much to further the Kingdom, the Lord ensured that he did not become too prideful of himself. By providing Paul a “thorn in the flesh,” Paul was kept humble for this affliction proved his weakness.
Many will come claiming that it is God’s will that nobody shall suffer, but this passage proves otherwise. Do not listen to these false teachers! Paul certainly suffered, for his repeatedly petitioned the Lord (2 Cor. 12:8) to remove the affliction, but the Lord would not (2 Cor. 12:9). This brings one to the logical conclusion that it is indeed the Lord’s will that we sometimes suffer, so that He may be further glorified. The Lord does not rejoice in suffering for the sake of suffering, but if that suffering should bring Him greater glory, then it may be justified. It is our purpose in this life to glorify God, so rejoice when we are given the duty to do so, even in suffering for the Lord.
We all suffer our own “thorns in the flesh.” Although some may not be as severe as others, if one examines their life with sincerity, they will expose such affliction requiring that they rely upon the Lord’s strength to endure trials. For me, I rejoice that I have been called to suffer afflictions so that the Lord may be glorified through them. Soon enough, I will celebrate the fourteenth year in which I received this calling, but I will not mislead you regarding the tribulation I endured.
My Brain Injury
On June 15, 2006, I was t-boned by a semi-truck, that left me with a traumatic brain injury. For five days, I was comatose, with no hope in sight, but upon that fifth day, the Lord decided to awaken me. My family was informed that it might take years of rehabilitation for me to recover, but even then, it was likely I would not recover fully. While the doctors were not incorrect, the Lord blessed me with recovery that was much faster than that, and nearly a complete return to normal. Instead, I endured a personality change–imagine the essence of your being becoming amplified to both extremes. I was either extremely relaxed or extremely agitated, with few qualities in-between. One might have described my brain injury as causing me to have become temporarily bi-polar during the healing process. Despite this being a terrible issue, I did not lose my sense of smell, taste, or ability to walk and talk, so in many respects, my suffering was less than others with similar TBI.
The years that followed were difficult. I was both in denial of my TBI, and my emotional outbursts and new disposition toward risky behavior caused me all sorts of trouble. I was 17 at the time of the accident, so with little healing, I went to college, where nobody understood I had a brain injury, or just how dangerous I was to myself. Though I was warned by my neuropsychologist, I was drawn to alcohol and drugs like a mosquito to the bug-zapper. Through my endless self-destructive behavior, I managed to graduate, but any faith that existed had more or less left me by this point. It would not be until I hit rock bottom, in 2015, would I come to true faith.
In all the pain that I endured, if it was all required so that I come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, then it was all worthwhile. Despite my affliction, I am joyful, for my future hope is in Christ. If the means had brought about the ends desired, one would believe the affliction would be removed, yet I still suffer with chronic migraines, a predisposition toward forgetting tasks (hence I keep a planner), and slight Aphasia (forgetting the right word in speech).
Instead, the Lord has answered my pleadings by refusing to remove the affliction. In doing so, I realized that he had provided me something much greater–a reminder to rely upon Him for His strength, not my own. In all my years of enduring the sufferings of life with a brain injury, I refused to rely on anybody else, except my own self. I refused treatment and help, and where did that land me? I had become a self-medicating drug addict that was unfavorable to be around. It was only upon submitting myself to others and God, did I become better. Without help, I was no more than a a person stumbling through a maze in the pitch dark.
Satisfied in Christ
I rejoice that I have such reminders to rely upon God, so that His strength is glorified, not mine, but it can be difficult to do so sometimes. In the midst of suffering, we only want relief, but when the Lord sees us out of the pain, we more clearly see how we glorified Him. I cannot rely upon myself to ensure deadlines are met, or that I achieve goals, but it is only upon the Lord that such things are accomplished.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:10
Similar to Paul, I have endured afflictions, but I know there are others that are called to endure so much more. My heart goes out to them, and I pray that the Lord empowers them to get through each day by His strength. As Paul professes, I too am prone to self-pride in my ability and motivation as well. But on June 15, 2006, the Lord put an end to that. My mind was the pride of my work, yet it was made my most unreliable quality. Despite being made weak, in Christ, I see that I have become stronger. Not by the work of self, but through the grace of God. Though I am kept humbled, as I cannot become prideful of myself, I can rejoice in glorifying the Lord through my new weakness. My disability is unseen, leading many to ridicule my weakness. It is worth enduring so that God’s strength is perfected in my weakness.