“I’m So tired. I want to stop. My legs can’t handle another step. Just quit. Ah! Don’t think that. Stay focused, Jamie. One foot in front of the other. Don’t stop. Stay focused.”
Can you recognize this internal battle? This head game? Your mind is begging for mercy, pleading with your body to end the torture. For me when I run this voice can sound deafening than any other time. Maybe because I have little to distract me, little to keep my mind occupied. My pain dominates my thought life and so does the desire to quit. So my mind tries to convince me that quitting is the better solution to my pain problem, not persevering. But where do we also find this voice lurking in the shadows? I hear it in seasons when my marriage is struggling, when I’m losing patience with my children, when I can never seem to keep our house clean. Or In the past when I had two miscarriages, or the continued pain associated my relationship with my Dad, or when I lost someone very close to me. “Quit Jamie. It’s not worth the pain. It’s not worth the fight.” This voice is loud and quite enticing. Because we are all tempted to find a quick fix for our pain.
“…A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul pleads with Jesus. The pain is too much for him, too unbearable. “Just take it away!” He begs. But the thorn was placed in his flesh for a specific purpose. His pain was simultaneously guarding him from unnecessary Sin and growing him in his knowledge of the love and power of Jesus. In essence his suffering was not for nothing.
In Timothy Keller’s book entitled “Prayer,” he writes of one of the greatest Christian teachers, St. Augustine, and his thoughts on prayer in times of suffering. Augustine writes, “Tribulations…may do us good…and yet because they are hard and painful…we pray…that they may be removed from us.” Keller adds, “Should we pray, then, for a change in circumstances or just for strength to endure them?” Paul prayed for a change in circumstance. Many of us do. But what if we shifted our patterns and decided rather to simply pray for strength in seasons of suffering rather than the removal of suffering? Keller finishes by saying, “Our sufferings are a ‘shield’- they defend us from the illusions of self-sufficiency and blindness that harden the heart, and they open the way for the rich, passionate prayer life that could bring peace in any circumstance. As a runner I have found over the years my weapons for defeating the internal battle. But as a Christian, our greatest weapon is prayer. What would change for us if we began embracing our suffering as our shield rather than our enemy, and prayed as if it were our greatest and most valuable weapon against things like depression, anxiety, grief, anger, poverty, terrorism, hunger, broken relationships, cancer, and hate? Do we want to strengthen our minds? Do we want to know the power of Jesus? Let’s start with prayer.
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