My Perpetual Mess
2 Corinthians 1:8,9 We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself… But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God.
In Church, we love the story of the one who used to be a sinner but then came to Christ, was transformed and lived happily ever after. The worse the sin, the better the story. I do not think we purposefully tell the story that way, but that is how we like to hear it.
We rarely celebrate the sufferer who prayed for healing, only to be told no. Even though that individual grew ever closer to God through the pain, we do not like that story. We much prefer deliverance and healing. We dislike persistent suffering and need. We want deliverance and we want it now.
Paul spoke of a much different reality though. In today’s passage, he told of his suffering and the reason behind it. He said that it was only in his desperate suffering that he understood his desperate need for God. It was only when he could no longer rely on himself, that he truly turned to God, trusting him above all.
It is the same for us. It is often only in our affliction that we become aware of our severe need for God. The need never actually changes. We were created to live in a dependent relationship with him. It is however, often only in our defects and trials that we become aware of our proper relationship to him.
We do not like this. We do not want trials, need or suffering. We are fine. We want others to see our success and we want to hide our failure. In doing so, we create a façade of perfection that repels those who are seeking God and prevents us from following him.
It is my pride that desires independence from God. It is my flesh nature that hates to admit defect and fault. I long to be free of need and in doing so, I desire my own demise, for it is only in my need that I turn to God. It is in my self-sufficiency, that I ignore him to my own peril.
I write then, not just as one who has failed three years ago. I write as one who continues to fail. I have a never-ending supply of defects. I may have stopped using pills, only to find gratification in food. I may have had some success with food, only to become judgmental of those who are still struggling. Psychiatry will tell me that I am attempting to fill a void and of course they are right. I am always going to seek satisfaction, purpose and meaning either in the immediate gratification of my flesh nature, or in God.
God allows me to continue in need so that I continue to turn to him instead of me. I used to find this steady stream of defects maddening, but I now realize that it is my persistent need that keeps me pursuing God. As often as I am tempted to turn to self, I must discipline myself to turn to God.
My ever-present defects are not cause for despair. They are assurance that I will not run out of need before I run out of life. It is when I no longer need God that I will stop pursuing him. When I stop needing him, I will, in my self-sufficiency become a monster. As long as I can see my need for God, I will turn from self and follow him.