by Kristina Renee
If you have ever had to care for someone you love and who is gravely ill, you know it is a rollercoaster of emotions. In my own life, it was my Dad. I watched him experience so much pain – I could see it in his face. I cried out to God to make it better, but soon after, Jesus called my Dad back to his heavenly home.
My mom asked, “Why did God take him home early?” I couldn’t find an honest answer to give her. But, I stood firm in the comfort that it is by grace that my Daddy is with the Lord.
I had cried, praised, and pleaded with God to turn this situation around. Even if the outcome wasn’t what I wanted, I knew that God heard my plea asking Him to extend his life. I thought of how, even in the midst of his grief, David honored God in Psalm 16, asking “How long, Lord?” I could imagine David yelling, screaming, despairing that God might keep him in that painful place forever and not answer his prayer for help.
In my grief, I found myself studying 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, reflecting on why God let Paul plead three times to take away the suffering of the “thorn” in his flesh. I could not imagine the agony Paul faced. Why did God keep that thorn in his side? I wondered if it hurt Paul as he went about preaching on three different mission journeys? I wondered if Jesus kept the thorn there as a reminder of Paul’s former life persecuting the Body of Christ. I wondered how much Paul speculated about the reasons for God’s apparent silence. I know I’m not the only one who has ever asked God, “Why?”
God’s surprising answer was this: grace. It was God’s perfect grace that kept the thorn in Paul’s side. The Greek word for grace that Paul uses is “charis” and it means, “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness; grace of speech.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace [my joy, pleasure, delight…] is sufficient for you.” Perfect grace will keep your insufficiency sufficient. That very thing is enough for me, The Lord, to use in hardships, persecutions for my sake” [12:10]. Having the joy of The Lord in the midst of pain and suffering, we can take pleasure in knowing that God may never fix it here on earth, but to know that my heavenly reward will have no more pain and suffering.
In hindsight, Paul reflected that his prayer not being answered the way he would have liked by the Lord might have been the biggest blessing Paul ever received. It gave him encouragement to delight in the weakness [12:10]. God showed him His greater strength, His surpassing sufficiency, and His better grace through Paul’s encounter with weakness, limitations, and struggle. Paul was so convinced that this was a better outcome than what he’d originally prayed for that he boasted about it (2 Corinthians 12:5, 7)! None of us want to face weakness, but it is truly in God’s strength that we see the hidden blessings of our weakness.
As I reflect on those heart cries to God for my Daddy, Paul’s experience gives me an answer: it is by God’s grace alone that He didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted. God sustained me in humility and invited me to rely on His sufficiency.
In my pain and with my limited understanding, I kept on asking God “Why?” But instead of focusing on the why, God invited me to focus my attention on Who: who God is, His promises, and the prayers He has already answered.
When my Daddy passed, I posted this on social media: “My favorite sleeper is now resting in the arms of Jesus. Rejoice, Paul says, again I say Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:6). In the midst of my unanswered “why” was an invitation to joy: to rejoice in who Jesus is, and why He came.
Kristina is a passionate speaker and inspiring Bible Teacher who has a mission to help women live life through God’s Word. She is the author of Strength in Him: a 40 Day Devotional for Strengthening Your Walk With God Through Real Life Situations. Kristina is a seminary student at Dallas Theological Seminary. Connect with Kristina on Instagram @kristinareneexo, her website www.kristinareneexo.com