“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 Corinthians 12:10).
ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT KINDS OF WEAKNESS TO ENDURE IS PHYSICAL DISABILITY. Even for the person of extraordinary spiritual strength, it is hard to keep a positive focus on God when the body is not able to function normally or is racked with pain. We understand, at least in theory, that spiritual concerns are more important than physical ones, but the fact is, our bodies are the instruments through which our spirits must do most of their work. When the instrument is broken, it isn’t easy to maintain joy and give thanks. What, then, should be our attitude toward physical impairments or diseases, especially those of a serious nature?
We should “go to the balcony” and look at each day from a larger perspective. If today is difficult, for whatever reason, the thing we must always do is see today against the backdrop of eternity. Today’s pain may be hard to bear, but it’s never the whole truth.
We should give thanks, if not for the pain, at least for the progress it produces in our character. There is no more challenging text in the New Testament than James 1:2,3, which says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The testing is not pleasant, and none of us should be so naive as to suggest that the physical sufferer should just smile and be happy. Yet if suffering bathes our hearts in humility and reminds us to lean on God, it has done us a significant favor. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities,” Paul could say, “. . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We should understand that our troubles are not unique. Paul also wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). We may not personally know anyone who has had to endure what we’re enduring, but what about the millions who’ve lived since the world began? Whatever our affliction, others have coped with it — and some have coped with worse. In fact, every person we’ve ever met is hurting in some way. Some become bitter, while others become better.
“I thank God for my handicaps; for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God” (Helen Keller).