Twelve years and seemingly another lifetime ago, I “only” had two kids, and I was stressed out big-time. One was toddling and the other was an infant, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a decent night’s sleep. I knew a friend back then who had five kids, and I remember thinking to myself, “How in the world does she function?!?” God has an ironic sense of humor sometimes, and I have since eaten my weight in humble pie.
I don’t believe that God plays tricks on us or puts obstacles in our lives just to trip us up, but I do think it is unwise for us to say things like, “Oh, I could never …” and compare our lives to others because when we do, we are not only limiting ourselves, but we are also placing limits on God’s ability to work through us. No one sets out to experience grief or hardship; we’d all enjoy skating through life burden-free, but it doesn’t often work that way.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about having a “thorn” in his side. When I’ve heard sermons on this passage before, they usually focus on living with hardships, etc., but I think that something Paul says in v. 7 is particularly relevant. He says that God permitted the thorn to keep him from becoming conceited. You see, Paul had made quite a name for himself, what with his miraculous conversion experience and missionary track record. Had he not deliberately pursued humility, he could have easily become the early church version of a televangelist.
You know the cliché, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Isn’t it silly how we compare what we see externally in other people’s lives with our own internal stress and mess? It’s not a valid comparison, because everyone has “thorns” that they are dealing with in their lives. Some people just cover it up better than others.
As difficult as it is to accept sometimes, it’s not always up to us to figure out why seemingly bad things or trials happen in our lives. Sometimes, we are simply called to make do, and not only function in survival-mode, but to really thrive and give God glory through how we cope. I have a lot to learn from Paul. It’s not in my own strength that I manage day-to-day, but it is through God’s grace.