2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “…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 persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The Lord makes us holy by giving us white lines to live within. When we come up against some of those borders—guidelines that we don’t want to follow—a painful realization of our unholiness surfaces. We become conscious of how effortlessly our self-centeredness trumps self-control. Our excuses not to forgive or sacrifice or persevere glare under the light of Holy Spirit conviction. Paul suffered greatly, but as expressed in the letter to the Corinthians, he embraced the exposure of his weaknesses as part of the refining process. The admission ticket to God’s power is just that—admission—of our failings.
Psychologist David Powlison observes that God “designs your significant suffering …to reveal his abiding generosity, to remove all that is ungenerous in you, to make you abidingly generous.” When others bring pain into our lives, our response reveals just how bankrupt we are in grace, forgiveness, love, longsuffering. Their evil exposes our own. Only when we can admit how greatly we lack in God’s character, do we begin to let him transform us more into his generous nature. If others’ actions incite the sin lurking in us to be exposed, the first step of our cleansing has taken place.
On the other hand, when we allow our suffering to lead us to self-pity, what we’re really saying is that we deserve better. We’re too good to have this happen to us. Yet, it is in our deepest disappointments, our most impossible predicaments and our earth-shattering devastations where we come face-to-face with our need to go deeper. It is there we discover the mysterious intersection of pain and sanctification.
God never wastes his children’s pain. He will use our anguish to carve out more space for himself. More space to be who we were created to be. So in your heartaches, don’t be lured into going outside the white lines: coming to the proverbial end of our rope makes us ready for something stronger, greater, better….something holy.