Like the apostle Paul, I have a thorn in my flesh. It’s not identical. But it’s similar.
In the spring of 2012, I severely strained my right achilles tendon. It’s been over three years and it’s still not healed. After ten steps of walking, I feel the pain.
Tolerable, yes. But it still hurts.
I’m in the middle of my twenties. These are supposed to be the years brimming with fun-filled activities. These are supposed to be the years where I have the most energy. “These are the prime years for sports and recreation,” they say. Sports? I love sports. But I can’t even jump or run. I can’t participate in some of my favorite activities in life. And it feels like its been this way forever.
Will it ever go away?
I was forced to decline playing in a summer softball league with close friends. This makes two years in a row.
I see the guys at the gym playing basketball. I remember when I used to play. I ran up and down the court. I laughed with friends. I worked up a good sweat. But that was only back when I was able. “Those were the days,” I often think to myself.
Nostalgia, you’re back. Oh, how I did not miss you.
I went to see a physical therapist over the winter in hopes of getting healed. I did all of the exercises he suggested for months on end. I really did. I’ve taken the supplements. I’ve done the stretching. I’ve taken extended breaks. I’ve done everything in my power to get healed, and it hasn’t happened.
I’m starting to wonder — God, is this my fault?
I have a thorn in my flesh. And it’s not going away.
How about you? Do you have an ailment that you’re dealing with? Do you know someone who is?
By God’s grace, these past few years for me have not been wasted. I’m sure many of you have gone through similar circumstances (if not worse).
In hard seasons, here’s four things Christians should remember:
1) Learn to be content in Christ. Paul said he had to learn to be content in Christ (Philippians 4:11). What the average reader might not know is that Paul was in prison when he wrote those words. He had no wife. No kids. Even his ministry was stripped from him. Paul had to learn to find his contentment in Christ, not in people or circumstances. It was something that he had to learn; it wasn’t something he was born with. Contentment is not a spiritual gift. It has to be learned, and it is primarily learned in the school of suffering. You know, it could be that God is trying to teach that same lesson to you.
2) Remember God’s goodness. I think Spurgeon said it best: “Christian, remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity.” That was coming from a man who faced an indescribable amount of depression. In hard seasons, we must remember that God is ordaining all of our circumstances for our good, even when it feels like everything is working out for our bad. While you pray through your miseries, don’t forget to also ponder God’s mercies.
3) Reflect on eternity. I confess that I think about eternity far more in hard seasons than good ones. One of the blessings of suffering is that it usually forces our hearts and minds away from wordiness and into eternity, where things will be far, far different. No more sleepless nights. No more anxiety. No more depression. No more pain. No more sorrow. Our bodies will be perfect. Indeed, everything will be — after all, we’ll be in paradise.
4) Comfort other Christians. Christian, don’t waste your suffering. In God’s providence, be looking out for other fellow Christian sufferers and comfort them with the comfort you’ve received from God. Paul tells us to do so (2 Corinthians 1:4). One of the best ways to get through your suffering is to help someone else out with theirs.
I’m seeing a doctor now. We’ve met twice. I’m optimistice more than ever that I’ll eventually get healed. But only time will tell. Whether I get to run by the end of the summer, or never get to run again, I know that God has decreed all that comes to pass. I know that one day the pain will be gone. I know that our God is always good.
Jesus is enough for me. And he is enough for you, too.
Questions and Comments: And what about you? Know someone that you feel needs to read this? Do you have a thorn in your flesh? Feel free to share and post any comments below.