"Okay, Winter, you've made your point. You can go back now."
For those of us who are not in the skiing, snowmobiling, furnace repair, collision, snow removal, or winter coat business, we may feel like that. It is really odd to see so many trees full of leaves and snow. It isn't supposed to be like that. After all, if we really wanted to freeze and shovel snow more, we'd move to the U.P., right? What are we supposed to do when winter shows up early and looks like it's going to stay for a while?
There's a family in our church who has a child who suffers from seizures. "Okay, Winter, you've made your point. You can leave now." There's a man in our church, whose boss keeps stabbing him in the back. "Okay, Winter, you've made your point. You can leave now." Another brother has been diagnosed with MS. "Okay, Winter, you've made your point. You can leave now." But, what are we supposed to do when winter shows up early and looks like it's going to stay for a while?
I get the sense from 2 Corinthians 12 that the apostle Paul had a similar condition. A thorn in the flesh was given to him (v.7). It was a messenger of Satan that was leveraged by God to keep Paul from becoming conceited. Paul did what all of us would do. He prayed for this to be taken away. Winter had made its point. It could leave now; except that it didn't. Paul prayed again and the result was the same; no change. A third time he prayed and the Lord said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." So, what did Paul do?
I think he stopped asking God to remove it. That's how I read it. He embraced this new reality and stopped fighting against it in his spirit. That doesn't mean that he liked the thorn, but by embracing this reality, he was able to benefit from what the thorn was doing. The thorn was producing weakness, and Paul took God at his word. Our weakness is the occasion for God's strength to be seen. So, Paul boasted in his weakness and, in fact, became content with it.
We all live east of Eden. Seizures, back-stabbing bosses, diseases, and other griefs threaten to freeze our hearts and chill our souls. While winter is obviously here, it is only here for a time. Winter is on a leash, and one day a summer that never ends will come. On that day, all that we learned in these days will enlarge our hearts that we may be able to enjoy Christ even more.
Sunday's text: Acts 18:1-17