Winning through losing is the title of an article by Pastor Sandy Adams in the Summer 2017 issue of Calvary Chapel Magazine that touched my heart and lightened my burden this day. Pastor Adams told the story of the Apostle Paul of the Bible who, after coming to faith in Christ, never had a “thorn in his flesh” removed despite praying three times. He describes it as follows with a passage from 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 12:
Paul learned to view his thorn as God’s gift. He rejoiced in the weakness it caused; for it became God’s opportunity to demonstrate His supernatural strength. Paul rejoices in verse 10, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. for when I am weak, then I am strong.” He took pleasure in circumstances where he was no longer in control. A weak Paul empowered by God’s grace was more effective than a strong Paul at peak performance. Paul was confident that God’s grace was sufficient. (p. 52)
Pastor Adams goes on to encourage us that the Lord’s greatest work is in our times of defeat: a work that He intends to do all along. “Rest in this: When we are at our weakest, God makes us strongest.” (p. 52)
It is my hope that my writings here will exemplify this teaching. I have struggled greatly these past few weeks with episodes of physical and spiritual darkness too ugly to describe publically. To think that I may never be free from daily convulsive episodes is a burden to great for me to bear in the midst of these setbacks. At the same time, I continue to have a sense that perhaps soon they will stop. Should I not hope that they stop? I think not. My calling is to remain faithful to the moments in which I find myself: doing that which the Lord wants me to do, discerning the leading of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the presence of my King often. If that means being obedient to the Lord’s call to get off the couch to take a rescue remedy while my head is banging, my legs aren’t working right, and pressured vocalizations are emanating from deep within my loins then I will trust that my Heavenly Father will keep me safe while I do so. It’s amazing how supernatural power overcomes my own inability to move my body correctly. His power is real!
I recently completed a course of antibiotics to treat a gut infection that may have a connection to my brain symptoms. The medication hurt me with damaging side effects. After 10 days I called my Doctor and transitioned to the first of two herbal protocols that would follow next. Tomorrow morning I will start the second of these two plans including dosing at an elevated level of an antimicrobial that I have largely tolerated in the past. I am hopeful that recovery is possible with this new plan. After reading Pastor Adam’s article today I will remain mindful that there is purpose and power in every moment of this journey no matter the outcome will be. The power of Christ has indeed rested upon me in my weakest, most breathless states. I have trusted Him completely albeit not perfectly. He has ordained these days for me revealed in other levels of healing that I cannot disclose right now: the longest held desires of my heart have been addressed, have been comforted. Through seizures!
In time, the Apostle Paul saw his thorns as a gift. “Imagine, a thorn gift” suggests Pastor Adams. “When Paul accepted his thorn as a gift, God gave him strength.” As I have come to my own level of peace with this serious illness, I have received many gifts as well. Another great blessing has come from my beloved husband, Steve’s, unfailing love, presence in the darkest of times, prayers, and gifts of the spirit. He is often my Jesus with skin-on, so to speak. This morning he anointed me with oil as he prayed for me in the aftermath of incredible difficulties. Oh Lord, please bless this man, this instrument of your peace! Help me to love and serve him as you would have me do so with your strength, with words from You to encourage his heart.
You know I never really thrived when posed with a competitive situation at home, with my peers, at work, at school, or in most places in life even though I know that it is o.k. to strive for excellence in all of these settings. I usually fell short before reaching the prize. Perhaps my focus was on the wrong place? Winning through losing brings us to the eternal finish line, the one that matters most, in second place behind the Lord, Jesus Christ who will share in the victory that He hath created all along the proverbial races of life. These are the ones that truly matter. The ones where we let Him carry us or infuse us with His grace, His power as we cross over into eternal glory.
Now that’s a medal I do want to take “home.” Lord, in your mercy, help me to finish well! JJ