So, I’ve been having a similar conversation with a lot of my buds.
A lot of them are in difficult seasons, seasons marked by loss or discouragement or painful-but-necessary rummaging through previously unpacked emotional baggage. And seeing as my heart has been carrying around sadness like a heavily-laden, undetachable backpack for awhile now, I’ve started to look at my future seasons through cynical eyes, marred by the continual seasons of fire that’ve surrounded me over the past year and a half.
Not to say that the past couple years have been bad, there are so many gifts I’m thankful for and I love Nashville and this whimsical, creative life I live… but it’s still been so hard. I’ve been tossed in one difficult season after the next, one tough lesson after another, and I’m honestly so ready to bask like a lizard in a season of bright sunshine and summery days. And maybe those days are coming, I’m unsure.
But here in my present reality, my heart has started believing that life is just going to be one tough season after the next… and it’s made me wonder if I’m strong enough to handle it. My knees are shaky, my optimism dimming, and, truthfully, taking another step into another dark season seems too daunting for my exhausted soul. For now, the answer to my request for sunshine and rest has been no… yet again. And the more I talk to people that I love, the more I realize a lot of other people feel this way too.
The vast majority are living in seasons of refinement, seasons of tough lessons. Seasons where joy is a fight and contentment is the subject of our most desperate prayers. And, if we’re honest, seasons where we wonder if we’re gonna be strong enough for our future struggles. There’s a good possibility that you, dear friend, are either in this kinda season or have experienced one like this. So, Jesus put it on my heart to encourage the discouraged and shine the lamp of His Word on our dark seasons and disappointments by showing you a passage written by Paul, a man who dealt with suffering and pain with a heart set on glory and hope set on Jesus alone.
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Three times Paul pleaded. He pleaded. The thorn in his flesh hurt... whatever it was, it was described not as a mere inconvenience, but a torment to him. So this wasn’t a teensie apathetic prayer, this was Paul bearing his soul multiple times, begging God to answer… and He did, but not how Paul had hoped.
The first thing I want you to know, dear ones, is that God hears our prayers and God cares. He isn’t distant, indifferent, or deaf to our desires, His children always have His ear. Rather He’s a Father who knows how to give good gifts at the perfect time… and He knows when the gift of comfort will drive us further into independence instead of dependently relying on the comfort and strength that’s only found in His loving, protective arms.
Because if you look at these verses, you can see that God answers Paul’s request with purpose. He doesn’t take away the thorn, but answers Paul’s plea for comfort with the comfort of His good purpose: to allow Paul to rest in the strength of the God that carries him when he’s weak. And we can see through Paul that setting our eyes on eternal purpose instead of earthly comforts can strengthen us to even delight in hardships, difficulties, and weaknesses. We can delight because, though we aren’t strong enough, we don’t have to be. When we’re weak, He’s strong. When we can’t walk, He scoops up His lambs and holds them close to His heart. When our eyes are filled with tears, our dreams crushed, our skies grey, He is our Comfort and Strength and Joy for all of our days.
Friends, there is a joy that abounds in even the deepest of waters. There is a peace that surpasses all understanding. There is a strength that isn’t our own, that will sustain us through the waves and winds that wear us down. We’re free from the fear of our future sorrow because our Provider and Comforter is with us, promising that He has good purposes and sustaining us with the joy, peace, and strength of His protective heart. And we, dear ones, no longer have to fret about our weaknesses or feel discouraged because of our hardships but can rejoice in each season, no matter what it holds, simply because Jesus Himself is the delight of the weak and our Portion forever.