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When God says no
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Hi friend,

As we touched on in Wednesday’s email, suffering is not always a bad thing. But it is very much at odds with the view of God as a Santa Claus-like figure: there to grant our every wish and desire, so long as we have been good. This view of God can make parts of the Bible very confusing, for example the story in 2 Corinthians about Paul’s so-called “thorn in the side”.

2 Cor 12:7-10: Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Take a moment to think about what stands out to you about this passage.

Here is what stands out to us:

  • Paul has done nothing wrong. What happens is not a punishment or the consequence of sinful action.
  • Despite Paul pleading with the Lord three times, God’s response to Paul is an emphatic “no.” God does not see such an experience as entirely negative.
  • Paul’s response is astounding. Rather than lament the situation, he accepts it and boasts of his weakness, finding contentment in this painful situation because he knows that he remains connected to Christ who will aid him in this struggle.

We may be tempted to lament or get upset when God says no to what we ask for, even in very difficult or trying circumstances. Yet discernment is required, because as Paul’s testimony makes clear, difficult circumstances can be used to God’s advantage. This is not to say that God causes pain and suffering. Rather, God uses every situation and circumstance to work together for the good of those who love him. God can use even the attacks of the enemy to further his purposes in our lives.

Max Lucado sums up this idea brilliantly in his book You’ll Get Through This: “Does God guarantee the absence of struggle and the abundance of strength? Not in this life. But he does pledge to reweave your pain for higher purpose....What is coming will make sense of what is happening now. Let God finish His work.”

We begin our lament reflections on Sunday. We pray that you will draw close to God as you walk with him and practice lamenting. We don’t enter this journey lightly. We are all too aware of the pain some of you may carry. Know that we will be praying for you. We would also love to hear from you at any stage during the next six weeks. You can get in touch through the button below.

Journey well.

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