Tag Archives: Weakness

I love categories!!! How to think during suffering.

17 Feb

Categories are useful because they let us SEE how something relates to something else.  When I struggle to understand a new idea or concept, if I can SEE what something is NOT, then I find it easier to grasp the new notion when it is described as ‘something NOT X.’  I need that kind of distinction.

For example, a language teacher might try to get me to understand a verb tense like the ‘imperfect’.  She might say, “The imperfect tense is employed to communicate a repeated, ongoing action in the past or to describe the big picture (canvas-like background).”

My question as a newbie to this way of considering verbs would be:  “As opposed to what OTHER kinds of tenses?  What else is in the group called VERBS?”  She would perhaps answer, “Another category would be ‘one-time’ past actions, not the ongoing, repeating actions that happened.”

Let me apply this tool of categories to Biblical thinking.  (I KNOW you know that God calls us to THINK and use our minds.  Recall Paul’s advice to Timothy – Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Tim 2:7)

This morning, I was following Paul’s advice below when he exhorts us NOT to worry.  His wisdom goes like this: After we hand over our problems to Jesus with thanksgiving,  we’re NOT to think about the problems, but about………

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Ephesians 4:8

So which true thought did I take up?  The one above; I started pondering categories of what rests over us.

Consider this distinction from John 3:36:  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever does not obey the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

In this distinction, there are only two groups:

  • those covered by a future of God’s wrath (‘remains’ on him)
  • those who do not have God’s wrath abiding over them but a future of eternal life

That should make us grateful and motivated to share Good News!

Then I thought of other things that could ‘remain on us’.  Here’s the category distinction I REALLY felt drawn to –  2 Cor 12:9. This is the occasion when Paul reports his divinely-inspired insight right after he has prayed earnestly to God to remove his painful ‘thorn’.

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. 

What are the 2 categories here?  The clue is in the verb ‘to boast’.  That word confused me in the context of the above verse until I did some digging on Blueletterbible.org . To boast can also mean ‘to be glad about‘.

Now THAT I get.  ‘Thinking’ further I saw why one can be GLAD about weakness. It’s because of the exceeding greatness of having Christ’s power resting or abiding over them.  So perhaps those who COMPLAIN about their weaknesses don’t stay under Christ’s power.  Just maybe by complaining, they deprive themselves of the grace that could be theirs.

It’s human nature NOT to want or to be glad about sufferings and illnesses and limited ability.  I thank God that we have Paul’s example of prayer, that is of asking God THREE times to heal him.  Jesus does indeed command us to pray.   God, in his wisdom, will either heal us (or fix the situation) or he won’t.  What is our response to God’s answer? Here is the category divide:  accept God’s wisdom and gratefully acknowledge the power of Christ resting on us to LIVE with the suffering.  OR…..complain and not see, call upon, or even DESIRE that power.

Mike and I are in a situation right now where we are weak and helpless.  We don’t know what to do ‘tomorrow’ because there is no light yet for tomorrow.  But this we DO know: that God promises us his sufficient power through Christ when we gratefully look up and accept where we are today.  I am SO thankful for this truth and yes, I AM glad for this problem, this weakness, this suffering SINCE Christ’s power tents over me.