Grace in our Weakness
Dear VICC family,
When my wife, Nichole, was working on her undergraduate degree in psychology, one of her internships was with the mental health ministry at the church we attended. Many of the people who joined the mental health group at our church had been believers for a long time and had experienced significant difficulty reconciling their illness with their faith. Many had attended churches who told them their problem would be cured if they only believed a bit more. Some had been convinced to go off medications, which of course only made their illnesses worse. Some were told at one time or another that their mental illness was demon-possession. The mental health ministry at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, where Nichole and I worshiped at the time, proved to be a refuge for many hurting people. It was eye-opening for Nichole, and for me, to see that schizophrenia and sincere faith in Jesus could co-exist in the same person. Not that God wantedthem to be sick, of course, and not that their illness didn’t make their faith rather messy and confusing at times. But having an illness in their brain made them no less a recipient of God’s grace than someone else who had an illness in their lung. As you can imagine, that wasn’t always easy for some of those folks to believe. But it was true nonetheless.
When it came to Nichole’s time to lead the discussion at the group, she chose as her Bible passage 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient in you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NIV)
After group, Nichole told me that the attendees were transfixed by this text. They had never seen their own situation described so perfectly in the Bible before. An unwanted disability. A refusal on God’s part to remove it. Weakness, insults, and hardships. Pain. But also…Grace. God at work in weakness. The amazing ability to “boast” in the troubles, not because they aren’t real troubles, but because where we are weak, God is strong. Where we cannot help ourselves, God comes in and holds us up.
Your weaknesses do not negate the love God has for you. Your inabilities do not erase God’s grace. Your illnesses, your pains, and a lifetime of apparently unanswered prayers do not mean that God is not at work in you, for you, and through you. Knowing this doesn’t always make the pain any less painful, but it does shine a little light in the dark.
Your partner on the journey,