“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord—how long?” Psalm 6:3
Nothing test our faith quite like suffering. Every aspect of it is pushed to it’s limits. It’s always one of the first questions from those who do not believe in God…”If God is so good, then why do bad things happen?” Maybe it’s because nothing reveals the strength and quality of our faith quite like suffering. Nothing separates the wheat from the chaff of faith faster than the winnowing fork of pain, fear, doubt, and stress. Whether it be emotional, physical, financial, relational, or some combination of these, it will quickly reveal to us where our ultimate trust and faith rest.
Suffering is never easy. The gospel may have never burned so hot in a man’s heart than it did for the Apostle Paul, but I find myself wondering what must his prayers have sounded like as he pleaded with the Lord, on multiple occasions, to remove the “thorn from his side”(2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
What must he have felt in his heart when the Lord told him…no.
Paul, the man that Jesus came down from heaven in person to reveal Himself, the man who was used so mightily by the Spirit to heal that even his handkerchief was driving out sickness, the man that even raised a person from the dead, was told that this “thorn” wasn’t going anywhere. That this “thorn”, while unpleasant and inconvenient, was actually working for Paul’s good. Jesus is showing His power by using the things that appear broken and unwanted. He tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This answer from God, though not the one Paul sought, uplifted his soul so much that he said, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Only Jesus can cause such a change of heart. To go from asking God to removing problems and pain to delighting in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties? Only in Christ.
The Gospel is not, nor has it ever been, that in following Jesus everything will go right. The Gospel is that regardless of what happens, no matter what struggles or trials come your way, Jesus is enough! David doesn’t rush to some fleeting pleasure to distract him from his languishing. He doesn’t seek to be relieved of symptoms. He wants the cure for his troubled bones and vexed soul. He wants the Lord.
Jesus knows what it feels like to have a troubled soul. In John 12:27-28, Jesus says “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” For us, Jesus takes the troubled soul on himself. He bears what David and we cannot. Jesus doesn’t call on the Father for relief, but instead he seeks the Father’s will, not his own. Jesus says “Father, glorify Your name!”
Jesus, grant me a heart like this! One that only seeks the fame and glory of your name, not mine…no matter what it means to my body and soul. One that is able to see through pain and suffering to see eternal truths, to see that ALL things are working to together for the good of those who love you and have been called by you (Romans 8:28).
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18