Ready to Trust God During Extended Illnesses
Bible Studies for Life
Throughout history, some of greatest victories God gives in life have been won in the valley of the shadow of death. It is there that comfort comes from His presence and His shepherding hand. It is during those times of danger and confusion that His love becomes more real to us. There we experience that great contrast between light and darkness as shadows give way to His glory.
Questions in time of suffering
Many Christians struggle with the idea of why God allows His people to suffer. The questions aren’t always accusatory; in fact, they are often honest, probing and heartfelt. The questions can become even more intense when an individual is suffering. As Chip Ingram notes in Bible Studies for Life, “Anyone who struggles with long-term health issues will come to this question sooner or later: If God can heal me, why doesn’t He?”1 Indeed, unanswered questions to the problem of suffering have driven many away from God.
How Paul responded to personal suffering
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to long term suffering. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, he writes about a long term struggle with what he termed, “a thorn in the flesh.” He also phrased it a “messenger of Satan.” Most biblical scholars believe this was some kind of long term physical affliction, possibly poor eyesight (see Galatians 6:11). Regardless of the specific illness, Paul asked God to remove it on three different occasions (2 Corinthians 12:8).
What God revealed to Paul is a lesson of comfort to Christ’s followers through the centuries: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”2What God wants us to know is the neverending reservoir of grace available to those who wait on Him. God does not abandon us during times of sickness, suffering or disease. On the contrary, He pours out abundant grace on those who ask Him for it.
But Paul didn’t leave it there. His response is insightful and instructive: “Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”3 For Paul, possessing Christ’s power was a worthy trade suffering afflictions.
Glory follows suffering
Suffering is not eternal for those who believe. Glory is. Glory follows suffering.
In his letter in Romans 8:18, Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (HCSB). Again, Paul sees a trade worth having. Suffering now cannot be compared to glory that will be revealed in the future. This glory is connected to God’s restoring of all things in eternity. And to be sure, what a glorious time it will be!
Because God’s grace is sufficient in our weakness, and because of the glory He plans to reveal in us, we are able to see beyond the suffering of our temporal bodies. We can rejoice in the grace and perfections of God even when our suffering is intense and ongoing. Why? Because His grace is good enough for our every need.
1– Bible Studies for Life, Ready, Chip Ingram
2– 2 Corinthians 12:9, HCSB
3– 2 Corinthians 12: 9, HCSB
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