Right now, I find myself physically wiped and depleted. In the middle of an autoimmune flare-up, it’d be really easy for me to question God’s goodness. I’m 25. Most 25 year olds do not have to worry about their health or if they’ll be able to have enough energy to do X, Y, or Z. That’s my story, and I know there are others out there who battle intense health issues, wondering where God is at in the mix of it. Walk with me on this journey revealing how God works through hard times.
Paul, one the great hero’s in the faith, struggled. He faced a ton of hardship, yet he didn’t curse or blame God. How? He begged. He bowed. He boasted. Paul realized the grace of God working in and through the hardship. Keep in mind that Paul was just as human as you and I. Let that sink in as you read this verse.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT
This is counter-cultural and points to Jesus’ example of the upside-down kingdom. The kingdom of heaven doesn’t look like the kingdoms/cultures of this world. Culture would say to medicate or cope with a vice, but the Lord asked Paul to abide in the weakness. God had a plan.
For years, I have begged God so many times to take the pain away. I felt like if the pain was gone, then I’d truly be able to serve him. Freedom was on the other end of these health issues, I thought. And I bet Paul thought the same thing, yet the Lord told him something he didn’t want to hear. “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
Strength doesn’t just come from self, or when I feel good. God has a grace to work in and through us, even within our weakness. And the blessing of it is, when we are weak, we are more willing and able to surrender to the loving lordship of Jesus. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I’m not saying do not have great faith for healing, because I want you to. I know God can do the impossible in this very moment. What I am saying is that in the pain and in the waiting, abide in God to be your refuge and strength. He wants to work through your weakness.
Your weakness can be your greatest blessing if you turn to God for refuge and strength in it. God has an always accessible place of solace for his children, and that’s in surrender.
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13 NLT
Sounds like a dream, but is it possible? Are Paul’s words practical today? Let’s dig deeper into Paul’s example of surrender in hard times: He begged. He bowed. He boasted.
“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.” Whether that means three specific times or three seasons of pleading, what we know is Paul had something that he didn’t want. It must’ve hurt. It must’ve sucked. I can relate, and perhaps you can, too. What I want you to know is that God cares. He wants you to bring those worries and fears over to him.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 NLT
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
If you’re hurting, bring it to God. Bring it to a trusted friend or mentor. (If you don’t have those people, ask God. I did it before and know he answers that prayer.) Tell God what’s going on inside. Tell him your fears, your anxieties, and your pains. He cares about you.
And whether or not immediate, miraculous healing would come, God sees you, he knows you deeply, and he absolutely loves you. So, plead and beg God for healing, but don’t just stop there.
After begging and pleading for God to take this seemingly unbearable pain away from him, Paul bowed and listened for the Lord’s voice. “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”” As a child of God, a follower of Jesus, it is your birthright to hear your Father’s voice and to know it.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 NLT
God is speaking. His Word is alive. Perhaps He’s speaking to you in this post. Or, He’s speaking in that still, small voice in your heart. What is He saying?
After a time of begging, and for me “time” meant a season, I decided to let go, bow in reverence, and listen to what God had to say. “Cameron, if you were healed today, you’d worry yourself back into the exact same place.” That’s what came to mind, and in my heart I knew it was true. I was anxious, and I felt the answer was to not feel anxious. But God had something better in mind.
Instead of me just feeling better on the outside, He was doing an inner-work. In times of pain, consider that God may be doing an inner work. There is purpose in your pain. Hear that. There is purpose in your pain.
And so, I write to you today, still dealing with autoimmune health issues and wondering how I will balance my energy levels. At the same time, I write to you more free than I’ve ever been before. You see, what God spoke to Paul still speaks today. “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” In my weakness, I’ve begged and more recently have bowed. God has shown me that he is true to his promise of always being with us, even in the pain.
…And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b NLT
I couldn’t have done it without God’s people. He brought me my amazing wife who is filled with faith, a LifeGroup who I could tell of life’s hardships and God’s goodness, and He continued to pursue me even when I thought sickness would win. Why? Because God had a better plan through my sickness. Let me boast about it.
“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” Instead of seeing his weakness as a failure or something to be ashamed of, Paul turned his greatest weakness into his greatest ministry. Paul’s decision to surrender under the loving Lordship of Jesus in the pain is ministering to me to this day.
So, I will boast. In my weakness, God’s strength can shine. I saw it today at the doctor’s office. In the fuzziness of the waiting room, I asked God one thing: “is there anything I can do to love like You today?” Then I waited. I listened. I hurt in pain. What came to mind was, “tell Cindy I see her” (name changed for privacy). Even though I was honestly not fully present, due to bodily pains, I told her what I believe the Holy Spirit told me to say. And then she freaked out and threw a chair at me. Wait… that didn’t happen. She seemed taken back and then instantly was thankful and encouraged, saying that she had just been praying right before going into the room after a hard day of work at the office.
God sees her, and God sees you.
So, even in the hurting and in the hardship, God can do miracles through your obedience and surrender. Perhaps your greatest weakness can become your greatest ministry. So in my pain I’ve seen God surround me with others who are in pain, especially with autoimmune issues. God has given me the grace to encourage them, and they have encouraged me so many times. I’ve learned to lean on God more, trusting that He still has a good plan for my life, even in the middle of sickness. I’ve seen him use me in ways I would’ve never imagined. For example, writing this post is not something that comes natural to me. I used to hate writing! He’s grown in me an inner strength that I never knew possible and always thought had to be on the other side of physical healing. He’s strengthened my marriage, friendships, and identity.
You see, sickness does not define my story. Pain and hurting does not define your story. If you are a believer in Jesus, you are a son or a daughter of the God who loves you so much. So, when you find yourself in a tough spot, follow Paul’s example: Beg, Bow, and Boast.
- Q: What’s something that’s been overwhelming you lately, to the point where you don’t know how much longer you can take it? Have you begged God to take it away? What’s been your experience?
- Q: When was the last time you bowed before God? Now is always a great time. Do you have any worries, fears, or anxieties you want to give Him?
- Q: What’s at least one way you can boast about God’s goodness through the pain?
What’s your beg, bow, and boast story? Please tell us here!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.