I’m not the toughest chick on the block. In fact, sometimes, I feel a little wimpy. The daily grind of pain and functional challenge can often leave me feeling like I don’t have the strength to keep plugging along. At times, I’ve turned down opportunities to serve, or even to have fun, because I don’t want to deal with the pain that I know will come after.
Lately, I’ve been convicted that this needs to change. As I counsel, study, write and learn, the Lord is sending me more opportunities to grow and minister, in ways I never imagined He would. These opportunities sometimes involve physical tasks that I would typically avoid because I know they will bring more pain. For example, biblical counseling conferences are a great opportunity to grow and enjoy fellowship with others who are ministering as I am, and to learn from them. I even have an opportunity next year to speak at a conference about ministering to people who live with chronic pain! But I know from experience that long car trips or flying; sleeping (more likely not sleeping) in strange beds; sitting for long periods of time; walking all over a seminary campus or large church building, and just being away from the comforts of home, will bring on a flare of pain issues that may take weeks to settle down. Yet, I sense the Lord calling me to more and more such opportunities.
As I have prayed about this, the Lord has led me to several passages of Scripture which have been instructive. The first is Proverbs 24:10:
If you faint in the day of adversity,
Your strength is small.
Whenever the Lord lights up a verse like this, I always want to look at the original language, to get a deeper understanding of what is being said. This one did not disappoint. One of the English words for the Hebrew for faint is withdraw. So, if I withdraw from these opportunities to grow and minister, that is a sign that my strength is small. But wait! That’s not true! My strength is not small, because it comes from a very big God. I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me, right? Have I stopped believing that the Lord will supply the strength I need to do what He has called me to do? I must persevere in trusting that whatever He asks of me, He will supply the needed strength.
Another issue here, at least for me, is pride. Most conference facilities have wheelchairs and other accommodations for people with disabilities. Using a wheelchair would minimize the pain, and make the aftermath much more manageable. Yet, my pride hates to be pushed around, and it is humbling to ask for help. So my default response to such invitations has been, “probably not.” Yet, if the Lord calls me to that conference, how can I withdraw and also tell others about the strength I’ve found in Him? This is hypocrisy.
My friend, here’s the bottom line: We have to know our limits, but we also have to take charge of what or who is setting our limits. If I’m honest, it’s not really so much the pain that makes me shy away from these opportunities. It is the fear of pain. I dread the recovery time, I dread the humbling of asking for help, and I dread the pain itself. But (and this is 100% true so far), God always provides the comfort I need after I have obeyed. So the question is this: Am I setting my limits based on fear of pain; or am I setting them based on trust in the God who has ordained the pain, and is also the promised comforter (Deut 32:29)? Another verse the Lord showed me is Jeremiah 12:5
“If you have raced on foot against men and they have worn you out,
how will you be able to compete with horses?
And if you feel secure only in safe and open country,
how will you manage in the thick undergrowth along the Jordan River?
This world is becoming more and more hostile to the message of the gospel, and to Christians in general. We need to seize every opportunity to minister the Word and grow by it, while we can still do so freely. Many believers have suffered for centuries for the name of Christ. Why should I get a pass, or even want one? These opportunities, though they may be painful, are a great blessing and privilege, and I need to look at them from that perspective. If some pain and discomfort can stop me now, how will I remain faithful in that day when there are many more challenges and fears to be confronted? This “light and momentary affliction” that will come may be the Lord’s gracious preparation for when times are harder.
What are you being called to do today? Don’t let fear of pain dictate your answer. Base your decision on trust in God’s calling, His sovereignty, and His strength!