“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
Last night at church the entire service ministered to my heart. I wanted to share the highlights with you. We started out by singing “God Makes No Mistakes” and “Rejoice in the Lord.” The words, which I have known for many years, were new and fresh in light of my Gramps’ death. I was reassured once again that this was part of God’s plan, and it is best.
Pastor’s message was from 2 Corinthians 12, where Paul has a thorn in the flesh. The word for “thorn” in the original language meant a stake – like being impaled on a wooden stake. It represents extreme painfulness. There are three reasons that God allows pain in our lives.
- Pain is meant to accomplish God’s purpose in and through us. While everyone suffers pain, only some experience extreme pain.
- Pain teaches us utter inadequacy apart from God, and it ought to drive us to absolute dependency on God.
- Pain can become God’s power in and through us. Brokenness puts me in a place to experience God’s power.
As Pastor Bickel expanded on these points and described the working of pain in our lives for God’s good purpose, I was encouraged. First, consider how many thorns God has prevented from coming into our lives. The few that He allows are for His purpose.
Second, God’s purpose extends beyond me. The pain that I suffer is also for those whom my life touches and influences. This is where I really thought of my Grams. I know she will read this, and I hope it will encourage her also. You see, my Grams leads a Grief Share program in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She helps people through their grieving process. I know that this has in some ways prepared Grams a bit more for the loss of my Gramps. But I also know that this fresh pain in her life will be able to bless so many more people – those that Grams knows, and probably even strangers that she may never be aware of. The way she handles her grief can be a testimony to others. While it is painful to us, it can bless those around us.
Third, the pain that wish to avoid at all costs is that which is the secret of becoming a woman of God. As I respond to the pain, I can bless my family, sphere of influence, and even people I do not know. The pain in my life makes me useful to God. My pain is a part of God’s plan.
I want to say that I know many people have experienced much more pain than I have – be it physical or emotional. Even in my own family, I know that Gramps’ home going was more painful to others than to me. My Grams lost her spouse of 54 years. They were partners in life. Now there is a hole. My dad and his siblings lost their father – the man who raised them and influenced them into adulthood. And while Gramps was my grandfather, and I do feel the loss, I am not overwhelmed with sorrow. I just have a peace and reassurance (which I know is from the Lord) because I will see Gramps in heaven one day. I am sad, and I feel emotional pain, but I know the pain is more real to others. This message on pain still ministered to me, challenged me, and encouraged me.
The title of this post, as well as the sermon last night, is “Pains & Pearls.” Pastor concluded with the illustration of an oyster. A small irritant is introduced into the oyster which causes great pain. It could be as small as a grain of sand. God has equipped the oyster to deal with this pain and irritation with a secretion which covers the pain and makes it smooth. The result is a pearl. I can choose to be pain-free, or I can allow the pain to make me more powerful as God works through my life. When I am weak, He is strong. God wants to cover my pain with a pearl, if I will let Him. His provision for pearl-making in my life is called grace.
Once I had a pain called sin. Everyone is born with this “pain”. It prevents us from having a relationship with God. But God sent His Son to Calvary, so that my sin could be covered with His grace. He endured great pain so that I could become a pearl. My Gramps knew that, and accepted the gift of grace that transformed his life into a pearl. And that is why I will see him in eternity.
My mom told the story of Gramps’ passing in a blog here. I don’t really feel like I need to repeat it, but I will share a couple of pictures from the memorial service.
Though the reason we gathered was sad, it was nice to have the whole family together. Even my cousin Whitney (stationed in Bulgaria with the Peace Corps.) made it home. Gramps was number five of eight children, and two of his brothers and their wives also came. I had met Uncle Lee and Aunt Charlotte, but I was pleased to get to know Uncle Harold and Aunt Lucy also.
We are sad to be without Gramps, but I as said in my last post, “we sorrow not as those which have no hope”. We do have hope – we know we will be with Gramps again. I am so thankful to be part of a Christian family, and that we can rejoice even in a time of sadness. Thank you to everyone for your prayers for our family at this time.