Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor.4:16)
I’ve been reading Joni Eareckson’s book A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty. It’s tremendously helpful. Here is a book written, not by some well-meaning person, but by somebody intimately acquainted with suffering. Joni has spent over 40 years as a quadriplegic, and is now suffering intense pain as well. She asks, if we believe God can heal and does heal, how do we cope when He doesn’t?
I’ve written about suffering before on this blog, but those who follow me will know I had a stroke two years ago, and some of the wonderful things God has done in my life through the stroke, but I’m not healed. There was a moment a few months ago when I faced the fact that my recovery had stopped. I’m still losing weight and getting stronger, but I’m not getting any more use back in my body. One of the reasons I was able to stay so positive after my stroke was the continual progress and the hope that one day I would be restored. So the realisation that I am stuck like this permanently unless God intervenes was hard.
I try to count my blessings. I can speak clearly, do many things left-handed, and walk with a stick. But there is still some paralysis in my face and throat, my balance is precarious, my right leg doesn’t work properly, and my right arm doesn’t work at all. I was down for a short while, but God is great, He loves me, and He still includes me in His plans, so I pulled myself together and got on with life.
The verse at the beginning of this post is from the 4th chapter of Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians. The whole chapter is worth a read – it’s not long. In verse 7 he talks about ‘treasure in jars of clay’. The jars of clay are our bodies, and remind me of the verses in Paul’s letter to the Romans about the potter:
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Rom.9:20-21)
This is a good reminder, but not much comfort when you’re suffering. And doesn’t answer the question about healing. But what is this ‘treasure’ in our clay jars? Verse 6 tells us that God… made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. What a treasure! I think I would be glad of a few chips and cracks in a clay vessel that had such a light inside, so that the light could shine out and be seen. It’s good to remember that our clay vessels, and indeed, this world, is not all there is. There’s a wider reality which encompasses the spiritual, the emotional, the psychological, which we can’t see.
What is God accomplishing in you that doesn’t show on the outside? Can you say with Paul,
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor.4:8)
Especially we are not abandoned. God may be healing you, but on the inside. He is using your troubles, your sickness, to change you, and maybe to change others too. You can be strong, not crushed; happy, not in despair; hopeful, not abandoned; determined, not destroyed.
If you don’t know God as your Father, Jesus as your Saviour, that’s something you can fix right now. Tell Him you’re sorry for the wrong things you’ve done, and said, and thought. Tell Him you’re sorry for ignoring Him all this time. Ask Him to forgive you and become your Lord. Ask Him to begin that work of changing you on the inside, where it really counts.
If you already belong to God, tell Him you want to understand the work He’s doing in you. Ask Him to show you what you can do, even within your present situation, to bless others and further the work of His kingdom. And maybe one day, you’ll be able to thank Him for knowing best and healing the most important thing first. And in the end we will all be healed, when we meet Him with our new bodies which He’s promised us.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Cor.4:17)