I am always amazed when I read my Bible, how different God’s perspective is from ours. The things that God values are not our natural values. We value comfort, peace and happiness. God values the things that discomfort, distress and suffering accomplishes in us.
Now, I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist. People come to me for help with the many difficulties in their lives they can’t seem to fix. And I believe God can use therapy to bring hope and healing to our hearts and our relationships. Many people ask me, “Doesn’t God want me to have a good marriage, obedient children and a balanced budget?” I believe God does want these blessings for us, but He has something far greater in mind for us than these earthly blessings.
The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the concepts of suffering, trials and testing. Who in their right mind would want to suffer? Not me! I want only the good things God has to offer. But if we are satisfied with these earthly blessings, it’s very possible we will miss out on the very essence of God’s blessings!
Paul certainly didn’t want to suffer either, and yet suffering was exactly what God used to allow Paul to experience intimacy with Him. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul tells us he was tormented by a “thorn in the flesh.” Wikipedia¹ defines thorn in the flesh as “a colloquialism used to describe a chronic infirmity, annoyance, or trouble in one’s life.” We don’t know what kind of chronic trouble it was, but we do know that Paul asked God three times to remove it. But God didn’t.
In what circumstances have you found yourself that you wanted out? Maybe you’ve prayed and prayed that God would intervene. Heaven is silent. I know the feeling! It’s hard to understand where God is. Why would He allow some chronic problem to go on and on and on and on? Doesn’t He care?
What God does want to change is our perspective. He wants to separate us from our craving for comfort and peace and a trouble-free life, and bring us to a place that we desire to know Him in a deeper way regardless of our circumstances. God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.” In other words, God wanted Paul to know that, no matter how difficult things get, or how long they go on, He is enough.
Not only is God enough, but it is actually through the very difficulties that seem so overwhelming at times, that He shows His strength in our lives. It is only in coming face to face with our own weaknesses, our own inability to fix things (even through prayer!) that we can, not just know, but truly experience intimacy with God. That is what God values. That is what He knows will really bring us peace.
Paul experienced a change in perspective. From a desire to be free of his suffering, he came to embrace something greater. When he was finally able to turn loose of his desire for comfort, God came in like a flood, sweeping over him with grace and peace and strength.
So what is your perspective right now? What have you asked God to change over and over and over again to the point of discouragement? Do you need a change in perspective? Do you need to experience God’s grace and peace and strength more than you need a stress-free life? It’s a wonderful trade-off!
What was Paul’s response? “BRING IT ON! If this is what it takes for me to know more of God’s grace and strength and to experience Him in a more real way, give it to me!”