Our burdens carry us somewhere. Where do your burdens carry you?
2 Corinthians 12 records a burden Paul carried, a thorn in his flesh. Three times Paul pleaded with God to remove it. But to keep Paul humble, God would not remove it. Paul’s response was to see his suffering as a reason for rejoicing because it revealed Christ’s power at work. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)
A Present-Day Example
When I think of people today who have carried burdens for long periods of times, I think of Joni Eareckson Tada. If you have read any of her books you know that Joni attempted a dive into shallow water in the Chesapeake Bay. The moment her head crunched against the sand bottom, she knew she was in trouble. She recalls feeling like her life was over when she learned she was permanently paralyzed.
Joni was a Christian at the time and spent those early months praying for healing, getting anointed with oil, confessing every sin that she could recall and attending one healing service after another, until finally she whimpered, “I cannot live this way. I’m so lost. God, show me how to live.” Her burdens drove her to Christ where for over 50 years she has lived in a wheelchair, and describes her life as dying daily to self and rising with Jesus.
Joni wrote this about her life: “A ‘no’ answer to my request for a miraculous physical healing has meant purged sin, a love for the lost, increased compassion, stretched hope, an appetite for grace, an increase of faith, a happy longing for heaven, a desire to serve, a delight in prayer, and a hunger for His Word. Oh, bless the stern schoolmaster that is my wheelchair!” The thorn in Joni’s side has never been removed. Her burden carried her straight to Christ’s arms.
Seek Christ in Weakness
Have you ever seen that Disney poster showing a little girl with pigtails looking longingly into a mirror and seeing a beautiful princess looking back? I was in a Christian bookstore and saw a picture that was a take-off from this poster. It shows a cat looking into a mirror and the reflection is the face of a lion. The bible verse under the picture is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no long live, but Christ lives in me.” We are so like the cat, weak and powerless. And the lion is Christ, strong and all-powerful. So many times, we pridefully think that we are strong apart from Christ and then we fall into sin. Pride comes before the fall. Only when we seek Christ in our weakness do we find Christ’s power and strength, like the lion in the mirror.
When we are in trials that reveal our anger, bitterness, unbelief, selfishness, pride, or greed, we often fail to depend and rely on God for help— the one we need most in our time of need. Paul received his thorn to keep him from becoming conceited. God showed Paul his inability to do things on his own. Like Paul, we need to run to Christ who is our strength always, not just when we are weak.
Trials tend to put us on our knees where we should have been in the first place. Often, we are more interested in health, wealth, prosperity, and comfort than in learning how to be more Christ-like during sickness, misfortune, and trials. Paul heard the words “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Cor 12:9) and was so convinced of Christ’s power being evident in his weaknesses, that he was not just content to bear his burden, but he boasted of his weaknesses, knowing that in them all, Christ’s power was at work. God would accomplish His purposes without taking the thorn away that seemed to hinder Paul. Despite human weaknesses, God’s grace attains His purposes in a fallen world.
Are you carrying your own burdens in a spirit of self-reliance, trying to depend on your own abilities to eliminate hardship? Or do you let your burdens carry you to the One who sanctifies you through your weakness? Run to the Savior who promises “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30).
Lord, you are the only place we find refuge in the storms that surround us right now. So we ask that you use these times to show your power in our weaknesses, that you may be glorified as you accomplish your purposes.
About the Author:
Sharon is recently retired from a career first as a chemist and then as a regulatory affairs consultant to the medical device industry. She has served on the women’s ministry team at Grace Presbyterian Church in her hometown of Yorba Linda, California, and has worked as the west coast regional advisor for the PCA. Her husband, two married daughters and two married sons are all engineers, who provide interesting technical conversations for a dinner table. Sharon is working on completing her bucket list which includes raising orchids, attending culinary school, bird watching and traveling. She has three baby granddaughters and is looking forward to the new grandson coming soon.