Confession: I prefer to be strong, healthy, and in control by being prepared before I speak or teach.
But days before I taught on Psalm 23, I was not strong, not healthy, and not in control.
The day before my Sunday talk for a local rehab center, my outline wasn’t finished. A first.
My weakness opened me to God’s gracious provision (once I surrendered it to God).
My brokenness cracked me open so God’s glory (His character, in this case, of grace) to shine forth.
One of the most mysterious teachings of St. Paul occurs in the context of his “thorn in the flesh.” (Some pain; some struggle. Unnamed.)
Paul asks God three times for this thorn to be removed. And three times, God says “no.”
Instead, God tells Paul: "“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Was Paul annoyed?
(So often, if I’m honest, I want God to remove the “thorn” more than I want to experience the power of his grace. But when I experience God’s grace and power like I did that Sunday, I’m thankful God didn’t give me what I asked for.)
Or maybe by this time in Paul’s relationship with God, he knew God’s grace wasn’t second-rate but a vital and powerful part of his relationship with God. So Paul accepted God’s decision.
Welcome to the fourth post in our Be Transformed Series.
In an earlier post, we ask the Holy Spirit to change our thoughts so we can change our stories.
Here, Paul illustrates how he changed his thoughts about his “thorn in the flesh.”
In response to God’s promise of sufficient grace and power perfected in (not in spite of) Paul’s weakness, Paul proclaims:
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 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 (see 2 Cor. 12:9-10 ESV).”
Because I felt weak, I opened myself to experience God’s grace and power at work on Mother’s Day when I taught.
How? God provided an obscure Scottish hymn.
On Saturday, I found a verse to an obscure Scottish hymn by St. Columba via Dr. Kenneth Bailey.
But I lacked the energy to repeatedly listen to a video where Dr. Bailey says the lyrics, then copy the exact words for my talk.
It took all my energy just to finish my rough outline.
On Sunday morning, I felt unwell (though not feverish) but I prayed, applied extra blush, and claimed 2 Cor. 12:9-10, “coincidentally” part of the May 14 day’s reading from Jesus Calling.
I let go of not being able to copy the verse down to that hymn. I trusted God’s grace was enough.
- Before we began, I blinked twice as I read the prepared hymn sheet.
- Without any input, Larry and Martha (the coordinators) had picked the exact hymn to sing after I spoke, and they printed out the lyrics!
So when I taught on Psalm 23:3, I read this verse from the hymn, “The King of Love” by St. Columba:
“Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed
but yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
and home rejoicing brought me.”
I had the joy of telling the residents how God had provided the exact verse to the precise hymn for my talk.
Throughout my half-hour talk, God gently picked me up, laid me on his shoulder, and carried me.
God showed up and showed off. Thank you for praying! This wouldn’t have happened without your prayers.
And the story began back in February of this year:
God provided my opening story for my Psalm 23 talk, over three months ago, through reader and friend Karen’s Psalm 23 story about how God met her in her brokenness. In her story and mine, God the Good Shepherd met us in our brokenness. She also was ill and had an obligation to meet.
Karen’s story inspired me to refresh my memorization of Psalm 23.
What is one soul-training exercise you can engage in this week to help open yourself to God’s grace and power in the midst of a hard situation?
Sleep? Silence in God’s Presence? Ruminating on God’s promises daily in lieu of a problem or a difficult person?
How can you invite the Holy Spirit to help you change your thoughts so together you can live a different and better story?
What if your weakness can be a portal to see God’s grace and power in your life?
How can you let the Good Shepherd carry you on his shoulders today?
(Since writing this post, God has given me several opportunities to practice living this truth (His Grace in my weakness) in my daily life.)