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All God’s Children Got Problems

June 28, 2021

’My grace is sufficient 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.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

These words from a sermon I heard long ago still ring in my ears: “I got problems.  You got problems.  All God’s children got problems. The good news is that we are candidates for a miracle!  No problem– no miracle!”  

The Bible is replete with stories of people who suffered from various illnesses and afflictions and were healed.  But Paul explains that no matter how faithful we may be, God doesn’t always give us the means to be healed or to solve our problems.  God often uses our weaknesses to bring us closer to him and to give us the strength that we need to carry on. 

 We don’t feel lucky when we’re chronically ill or are beset with problems.  But Paul told us to boast about our weaknesses. That’s what he told the church in Corinth: “Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given 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” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-9).[1]

Some Biblical scholars surmise that Paul’s malady was a chronic eye disease caused by the blinding light he encountered on his journey to Damascus when Jesus confronted him after the resurrection.   He consulted with Dr. Luke in 50 A.D. in Troas, and Dr. Luke traveled with him for the remaining 18 years of Paul’s life—in part, as his personal physician.  

Paul concluded that God’ purpose in not removing his malady was to prevent him from becoming conceited due to the visions and revelations he received from God.  Paul’s experience teaches us that even when God doesn’t heal a chronic illness or give us the means to solve a problem, he gives the faithful the means to cope with the problem.  God led Paul to Dr. Luke who cared for him for the remaining years of his life so that he could continue to spread the gospel. 

God uses ordinary, imperfect human beings like you and me to accomplish his purposes.  He used Ezekiel to bring his word to the Israelites, and told him not to worry about whether he succeeds: “Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 2: 4-5).  God uses average people for his purposes.  Don’t worry about whether you have three followers or three million followers.  If you are doing God’s work, he will take care of the numbers.  He will use your strengths and your weaknesses for his purposes.  Someone said that God uses cracked pots.  We are all broken at some level—and Jesus will use our suffering and brokenness for his glory.  All God’s children got problems.

When Jesus sent his disciples out on their first preaching assignments, he counseled them not to worry about rejection: “Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.  Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:9-11).  Jesus knew from experience that even a wholly human and wholly divine person such as himself would not have a 100% success rate.  Some people rejected him when he walked the earth and others continue to reject him today.  Jesus was rejected in his own hometown (Mark 6: 1-3).  He was falsely accused and mocked.  He suffered disappointment, rejection, despair, pain, humiliation, and other failures—and he knew that his disciples would suffer as well.  He wanted to prepare them and us for life’s inevitable difficulties.  All God’s children got problems. 

Psalm 123 encourages us to look to God in our suffering and failures: ”Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt” (Psalm 123: 3). God in his never-ending mercy and compassion will sit with us in our pain and will help get us through it.

If you are suffering from a chronic and debilitating illness or a difficult problem, look to Jesus.  If you are broken in body, spirit, or soul due to cancer, depression, or other illness, turn to Jesus.  If you are lonely, jobless, or dejected, call on Jesus.  If God has not healed you or shown you a solution to your problem—try turning it around like Paul did.   Consider it a badge of honor that God cares so much for you that he will give you the grace, strength, and power to carry your burden.   Seek all of the medical and other professional assistance available to resolve the illness or other problem, and then turn it over to Jesus.   He promised to give you the strength to bear it and will carry you through it.   Someone said, “A set-back may be a set-up for a step forward.”   

Step forward with the Spirit by your side.

Prayer: “O Lord our God, let the shelter of your wings give us hope.  Protect us and uphold us. You will be the support that upholds us from childhood till the hair on our heads is gray. When you are our strength we are strong, but when our strength is our own we are weak.  In you our good abides forever, and when we turn away from it we turn to evil.  Let us come home at last to you O Lord, for fear that we will be lost . . . our home is your eternity and it does not fall because we are away.  Amen.”  St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430).

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost are Ezekiel 2: 1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; and Mark 6: 1-13. 

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