Friday morning, I bent down and for the first time in years, pulled a muscle in my lower back. I had forgotten how painful that can be. Years ago, back problems were a way of life with me and I would have trouble at least three or four times a year. I could pretty much count on taking about three weeks to get fully back to normal.
As soon as bent I over, I felt that familiar electrical shock shoot up my back and I knew that I had a short time to prepare to be incapacitated. I immediately headed over to my doctor friend who massaged the area and put me on a tens unit to tire the muscles in an attempt to get them to relax. With instructions to use ice the first day and then periodic heat after that, I have been consuming ibuprofen and just trying to take it easy.
It’s amazing how much your whole routine can be thrown off with a back problem. The mind is willing but the body just isn’t able to do things. It’s incredibly painful to bend over, put on socks or even sit in a chair for more than a few minutes. Standing is virtually out of the question and to be honest about it, I am tired of laying down. I just can’t get anything done. Every time I try to move, I feel the muscles tighten up and my thoughts are consumed with when I am going to get back to normal. It’s very difficult to concentrate.
Many people in the Bible dealt with physical issues as well. Peter wrote about the suffering of Christians at the hands of the persecutors and how people were even murdered at the request of Nero, the Emperor. On occasion, we are told about people who suffered from leprosy or other physical ailments. Many times they were outcasts of society.
Probably the most famous of these stories involved Paul, who spoke of his thorn in the flesh in the book of 2 Corinthians. He said that the thorn was a messenger of Satan and it was a constant reminder of his weakness. In fact, Paul petitioned the Lord three times to remove the problem, whatever it was, but the Lord did not honor Paul’s request. We are never told what Paul’s issue was. All we know is that it bothered him enough that it was a distraction to his work, yet he successfully dealt with it and was somehow able to focus on spreading the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This only happened after his direct interaction with the Lord.
The verse for this evening recounts the story that Paul relates to us. We are told, in 2 Cor 12:7-10, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul believed that Christ’s power rested on him even more profoundly when he was unable to take care of himself. As you can see from the verse, Paul boasted about his weakness so that he would become even stronger in his dedication to Christ. While I have been praying quite a bit about this whole thing, I must say that I wish the pain would go away. I don’t know Paul could have concentrated when he was in that much discomfort.
Nonetheless, my encouragement this evening is that you will focus on the Father and His Son, even when you aren’t feeling so well. And when you have those physical issues to deal with, and then return to normal, I hope that you will remember our utter dependence on God. My prayer is that you will rejoice when you are feeling great and that you will use the body that God gave you to glorify His kingdom. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…