2018 broke heavy on Rita and me.
We were on a short break down in Arizona, between Christmas and New Year, to recoup from the craziness of the December schedule.
I’m sure every pastor feels that way.
Some time New Year’s Eve we got word of a sewer problem back home. We immediately called a friend, who is a plumber, and by New Year’s Day got the call from him that the problem was beyond his ability.
So, we called in a bigger local plumbing company, who wouldn’t even start on our problem until we had put $8,000 on a credit card. By the time we got home there was a backhoe on site and one 15 foot hole in the ground.
But still no solution, so a second hole was begun.
And now, three weeks later and $80,000 poorer, the problem is resolved.
What a powerless feeling watching retirement savings literally going down the drain. For the first time control over our resources was out of my hands.
Somewhere in the middle of the mess I had two bouts of a-fib, one of which put me in the emergency room the afternoon that our Tuesday night prayer meetings started back up after a December break.
Control over the function of my heart was also out of my hands. It was a terrible feeling.
There was nothing I could do about the financial hemorrhaging or the beats per minute of my heart.
Over the span of the first three plus weeks of January these two issues had me down on the mat spiritually, in a place of fresh surrender and attentiveness to God.
I couldn’t do this in my own strength.
Now, I don’t know if you have place in your theology for what happened next, but last Wednesday, somewhere between our bedroom and the garage door, with my car keys and briefcase in my hand, I heard the Lord say to me…
“The attack is over. It has accomplished the purpose for which I allowed it in your life.”
Two things happened at that very moment.
I felt like a ten-ton weight lifted off my chest.
And I knew exactly the things God had just worked into my life through the attack… things I would never have learned any other way. Things that needed correction in me for whatever God has in my future. One was an obsession with having things, toys, because I felt like I deserved them. The other needed correction was a presumption that had developed in me concerning the resources that Rita and I had set aside for retirement. I had come to presume they would be my security for the future instead of trusting the God who gave us those resources in the first place.
I doubt those things would have been revealed to me without the financial and physical trials of the last month.
I think it is natural for all of us to want to run from the thorns, to rebuke them in Jesus’ Name, even deny their existence.
But Paul said that he would boast about them. He boasted because he learned that when his circumstances made him keenly aware of his human limitations, his weaknesses… that was when the power of God came over him like a tsunami.
We spend so much of our emotional energy trying to cover up our human limitations… to put our best foot forward.
I’m not suggesting we wallow in our weaknesses. Paul’s reference here to his weakness is not sin. It is the acute awareness of the limitations of our humanity, brought about by trials, difficulties, insults, abuse… blown-out costly sewer lines.
But when God Himself says, “My power is made perfect in weakness,” we really need to pay attention, cut out the posturing and pretense, and invite His power to accomplish the purpose for which He allowed the thorn into our lives.