Have you ever have one of those days when, no matter how hard you try, things just seem to go from bad to worse?
The story is told of two cowboys who were working cattle one day. One of them discovered he was in trouble when a wild bull, with his head down and nostrils flaring, came charging toward him. The cowboy saw a deep hole in the ground and quickly jumped in it. As soon as the bull passed over him, he jumped out of the hole.
The bull, madder than ever, came charging back again, and the cowboy jumped back down into the hole. When the bull passed, the cowboy jumped out of the hole again. He did this several times.
Finally, the other cowboy, who was watching it all from a distance yelled out, “Why don’t you just stay in the hole?”
The cowboy yelled back, “I would, but there’s a bear in the hole!”
Maybe some of you feel like every day is like that! If ever there was someone who must have felt that way, it was the apostle Paul, though. Listen to him describing his life as a Christian:
“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness…” (2 Cor. 11:24-27)
Sounds a man who ought to be miserable, doesn’t it? I mean, how much can one man take? How much worse can it possibly get? It convicts me to read through that list as I think of the minor problems in my life that I allow to create a dark cloud over my life. If I had to deal with the problems on Paul’s list on a daily basis, then I’d really have reason to moan and whine, “Why, me Lord? Why does life have to be so hard?”
The funny thing is, though, that wasn’t Paul’s reaction at all. He didn’t list all those problems to garner sympathy. In fact, he finishes out this section by writing:
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake…..” (2 Cor. 12:10).
Taking pleasure in distresses? When is the last time you took pleasure in locking your keys in your car? When is the last time you took pleasure in running your cell phone through the washing machine (don’t laugh! I actually did that this week)? When is the last time you took pleasure is hearing the news that you’re getting laid off, the biopsy came back positive, or there was a terrible auto accident?
The “pleasure” in such things is not the ability to laugh and joke. The “pleasure” is found in the last half of 2 Cor 12:10, “…For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Everything that happens to me in life is a reminder that I am not in control, but I am a child of the One who is. It is a reminder that I don’t have the power to fix everything that breaks in life, but I serve the one who does have that power. It is reminder that I sometimes don’t know how I’m going to have the strength to cope, but I rest in the arms of the One who has promised to be there with me no matter what. And it is during those moments when life throws its worst at me that I feel closest to God.
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)
Whatever trials you are facing this day, may you find your strength in God.