Yesterday, November 10th, marked the 35th anniversary of my wedding day. I spent the day in much contemplation. I thanked my Savior for so much. I thanked him for Vanita. I thanked him for our children. I thanked him for our grandchildren. I thanked him for how two identities were made one…and I lamented that just under 20 of those years were given to us to be together.
I thanked God for our mission statement for life: to love our Lord, one another, and our children more and more every day and to help as many as possible to do the same thing. I thanked God for our Bible training and the ministries we partnered in. I thanked him for the folks we helped along the way…and I lamented that I have been far less effective without her…but went back to praise and thanksgiving for allowing me to be no less impassioned.
Yesterday was equal parts sad and glad. I spent time in tears and many smiles. Some memories crushed me only to be removed with others that made my heart soar. I found myself asking “why” yet again and again only to hear the word of God hidden away in my heart provide an answer for every question.
Yesterday…yesterday was like all my other days…just more intense. This is a part of God’s answer for adversity, anguish, and agony. He doesn’t always promise to remove our agony or anguish. He doesn’t even promise to always remove our adversity. He does, however, always promise to be the joy, the peace, the hope, and the wisdom to accompany and carry us while all that hurt helps us learn to be sympathetic and compassionate toward others. His presence and the purpose we receive from him is the answer we’re looking for when we keep asking “why.”
The Apostle Paul learned this when he asked over and over and over again, “Lord, please remove this thorn in my flesh.” There may be debate on just what he referred to with the phrase “thorn in my flesh,” but there is no debate about what the Lord told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In my weakness the power of God takes over, because his grace is sufficient. (Read Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 12.)
Yesterday, like every day, I found this to be self-evident. There were yesterdays when this was not so…not because it wasn’t true, but because I had not come to terms with it. Perhaps you know just exactly what I mean. You’re feeling the thorn in your flesh, asking why, begging that it will be excised, waiting, waiting for it to go away. It doesn’t. You ask “why” yet again. Then again. And while you wait for a promise you think God made, but didn’t, you miss “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Think about this for a while. When God translates your pain for his glory he also translates your pain for the benefit of so many others. Ultimately, you want people around who not only endure, but thrive when life is difficult. From Moms who do without so their children can eat to Mother Teresa who invited poverty so others could live, people who finally get the sufficiency of God’s grace are filled with joy even though they remain haunted with sorrow…are filled with peace even though they remain shadowed by turmoil…are filled with hope even though they remain showered in tears.
Soldiers tempered by battle, victims motivated despite violence, lovers rewired in widowhood, patients inspired through illness, these are folks who have learned just a little of what our Lord Jesus showed us when he too faced adversity, anguish, and agony. Contemplating the Cross, he expressed these words to the Father when he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Walking in dependence upon and in fellowship with his Father was not just the way, it was the best way…for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for you, for me, for everyone. Walking in dependence upon and in fellowship with God is not just an answer, it’s a far better by far answer to adversity, anguish, and agony…for God’s glory, your benefit, and mine.
Yesterday…yesterday was awesome.