As finite and fragile human beings, we deal with various diseases throughout our lives. Some of them are treatable, while some are incurable and people live with them until they die. Those incurable diseases constantly remind us that our body and our understanding of it are limited, and we count on the grace of God solely when we are caught in it.
If you have suffered from any incurable chronic disease, then you share one thing in common with apostle Paul. It’s not clear what exactly his illness was, but it certainly caused him tremendous pain and he was desperate to have it removed. Paul called it the thorn in the flesh. He pleaded with the Lord three times that it might be gone from him.
In fact, as the apostle who had met the resurrected Jesus and seen great revelations, Paul hadn’t been spared from his physical torment, for the Lord intended to prevent him from self-exaltation. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians Chapter 12, Versus 9), thus replied the Lord regarding Paul’s earnest prayer.
As a result, Paul accepted his infirmity gladly in trusting the power of the Lord, and concluded that when I am week, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians Chapter 12, Versus 10)
Needless to say, it required great faith for Paul to believe and say so, since it takes a strong belief and much hope to endure excruciating pain. Thanks to God’s grace and Paul’s example, people who are in similar situations can find a way out.
Meng, a gentle and approachable brother, is the leader of our Bible study group on Wednesday evening. He always wears a kind and smiley face whenever you meet him in church. You could hardly associate him with depression or desperation.
However, it is the same person who suffered from cluster headache, known as “suicide headache”, for years.
“I attempted to take my life as the pain was beyond what I could bear. The pain occurred more often than before this year. There was nothing you can do about it but endure the torture until it’s over. The cause and cure were nowhere to found.” Meng shared with us his experience at one evening. His spoke with a calm voice as if he was telling someone else’story.
“Think of Paul’s thorn.” I said nothing further as words failed me.
“Yes, that’s what encouraged me till now. If it’s not for the promise of God, I see no hope living in this world.” Meng replied with his customary smiley face.
Physical pain draws us near to God, since He is the only fountain that brings us comfort in such extreme situation. Believing in His grace and good will is the only hope when we are in despair.
I could never resonate with Meng or Paul if I hadn’t caught seasonal rhinitis myself three years ago. It’s a kind of sickness that qualified enough to cause discomfort and durable enough to arise irritation. The cause of my rhinitis is still unknown. I tried both western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, but none of them were effectual.
Rhinitis came with sore and running nose, which led to many sleepless nights due to the headache it brought. There was nothing I could do but pray. I prayed like I desperately needed to. I begged the Lord’s healing with my feeble voice during many long nights. The symptoms are now in remission, but the rhinitis happens irregularly each year, during which I learnt to stand the unease by meditating on God’s grace.
Disease and physical pain are never what we desired. For some people, it does become part of their lives no matter what. Instead of immersing ourselves in dismay, we could be content with our weakness as it’s the time that God shows His power. May those who have a thorn in the flesh endure the pain with patience and hope.
Cindy Cheng was born and brought up in central China. Cindy enjoys travelling and reading history books. Cindy is inspired by talking with local people when travelling abroad experiencing different parts of the world, as well as herself.
Cindy’s previous articles may be found at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/cindy-cheng.html