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God’s power brings good even out of suffering

November 23, 2023
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Daily Scripture

2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Romans 8:18-25, 31-39

2 Corinthians 12
7 I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited.
8 I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. 9 He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. 10 Therefore, I’m all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong.

Romans 8
18 I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. 20 Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. 23 And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. 24 We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
We are being put to death all day long for your sake.
    We are treated like sheep for slaughter [Psalm 44:22].
37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. 38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

To GPS readers:
We are deeply thankful for each one of you. And we pray that each of you will be able to join the apostle Paul in expressing thanks to God for his presence and love in whatever circumstances you mark this Thanksgiving Day.

The apostle Paul, God’s loyal servant, faced much suffering (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:22-33). He told Christians in Corinth that he had pleaded for God to remove a “thorn in my body” (a physical ailment). God did not take the infirmity away. Yet Paul said the experience actually deepened his trust in God. In Romans 8 he set out his attitude about suffering. He knew that “the essential quality of hope is that it is oriented to something in the future that one expects but does not yet possess (Rom 8:24–25).” *

  • Pastor Eugene Peterson paraphrased 2 Corinthians 12:10 as “I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size…. I just let Christ take over!” ** What “thorn” (or “thorns”—physical, emotional, relational) do you have to deal with? Have you found “My grace is enough for you” coming true in everyday terms? In what ways, if any, have you found that “when I’m weak, then I’m strong”?
  • Romans 8:28 did not say that “all things” are good—they’re not. It said God, who is always good, can bend even bad, painful things to serve a good purpose, if we are willing to put them in God’s hands. Has God at times brought good out of hard things you have faced? Paul asked a forceful question: “Who will separate us from Christ’s love?” His Greek answer assumed the answer was “Nobody and nothing!” What spiritual “anchors” keep you linked to God’s love, hope and peace?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, you know I like being “strong” much better than I like being “weak.” Help my trust in you to grow stronger even at times when life events are making me feel weaker. Amen.

GPS Insights

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as Human Resources Lead Director. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

It’s Thanksgiving, a time when many of us gather with family and friends. It’s a season of gratitude and joy. I’m sure that many of us can reflect on all that we have to be thankful for – our health, our loved ones, our freedoms, and so on. Yet, I also recognize that this day isn’t so “Norman Rockwell” for everyone. Thanksgiving comes with a complexity of emotions for many. Often people truly desire to be grateful, but it’s difficult to do so when you’re facing a new diagnosis or job loss or when “Please pass the gravy” is the extent of the civil conversation around your Thanksgiving table. Or maybe this year is the first in which there is an empty seat that was once filled by someone you loved. We are broken people living in a broken world. There is much to be grateful for, but there is no amount of pumpkin pie that can erase the pain some are feeling today. If that’s you, know that you are not alone. And let me tell you a story.

 

My husband grew up in Hawaii, and about ten years ago we were there visiting relatives (it’s nice to have in-laws in paradise!).  On one day of our trip, we went to visit his Uncle Doug on the volcanic side of the Big Island. As we approached his house we came to the end of the road (no, really – that’s what the sign said). It opened up into a black sea of dried lava stretching beyond the horizon. We were stopped by guards and told that we had reached the area in which it was no longer safe to drive. That’s when we mentioned that we were there to see Doug, and they let us drive on through. You see, Uncle Doug lived smack dab ON the lava.

This unique location provided him with one of the most interesting landscapes I’d ever seen. He explained that it had once been a lavish land full of vegetation, but now it was now covered in an expanse of cold lava from the most recent eruption a few years back. I imagined the magma rumbling from the belly of the volcano until it finally burst, flowing from the mount, burning and destroying inch by inch until there was nothing recognizable left in its wake.

 

Perhaps today you feel like your life has been in the path of a volcano. As of late, it seems the lava of death, disease, and broken relationships is flowing over a lot of people I know and care about. This flaming fluid can’t be contained. The overwhelming heat and pain are charting their unmanageable course, and it doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor or young and old.  Lives are left covered in rock and ash with no traces of the beauty that had once resided there. The agony of the burn is real.

 

As hard as they are, I have found that the times when the pain has been most severe, when I am crushed, broken, and burned – these tend to be the most sacred of moments in my life. In the seasons of utter despair, as the smoldering lava oozes over me, I am more drawn to my Redeemer, searching for any sort of life.

 

But there’s something interesting about lava rock. Did you know that over time it can turn to dirt again? And the same substance that killed and destroyed all living things brings forth minerals and nutrients spit out from center of the earth. The soil produced from the fiery volcano is richer and more fertile than that which was previously there.

And so it can be with our lives. God can bring new beauty from our pain as the soil of our souls is rich with a faith born out of the ashes. New plants, new trees, new life, new hope thrive in this fertile ground. 

 

If gratitude for today is too much to ask, that’s okay. You don’t have to be grateful for today’s circumstances. It’s hard to be thankful when life as you know it is covered in lava. Just acknowledge that this is where you are, but also know that God will use it to bring new life. Death does not have the final word. For that, we can be grateful.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Article “Hope” in Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, general editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 399.
** 2 Corinthians 12:10 in Peterson, Eugene H. The Message Numbered Edition Hardback. Navpress. Kindle Edition.