HOW I CAME TO KNOW THAT I DON’T TRULY YET UNDERSTAND GRACE

I have a hole in my back that won’t heal and it sucks.  It really, really sucks.

Last year, I had surgery and when I was in the hospital a spot on my back that apparently was already afflicted with a disease, became infected.  After several painful treatments and weeks of antibiotics, it became clear that I would have to have surgery.  I was told by the surgeon that they would take a 3 cm by 3 cm by 3 cm chunk out of my back and that it would take roughly three months to heal with weekly treatments at a wound center.   I had the surgery and have now suffered through roughly six months of treatments with no success. That’s frustrating for several reasons, not the least of which is because the treatments are very painful as I am allergic to pain medication and the treatments require the scraping and chemical burning of an open wound with little or no result.

The Bible commands a believer when facing an illness to have the elders pray over the believer and anoint him or her with oil (James 5:14).  I did this.  I have also asked several churches to pray for me but, so far, God’s answer has been a big, fat no!  My wound still refuses to heal and now they want to do another surgery and another few months of painful wound treatment.  Like a spoiled child, I have been inwardly, quietly throwing a hissy fit like a spoiled child.  I am ashamed to admit I feel entitled to good health because I work as an unpaid minister in an inner city church.  I have discovered that in my heart of hearts, I am just as “religious” as the worst Pharisee.

The Apostle Paul had a chronic medical problem he described as a “thorn in the flesh.”  He prayed to God for healing but the Father’s response was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Indeed, if one reflects upon the cost and the result of our salvation, it follows that anything we suffer on earth, which brings glory and honor to God is but a trivial inconvenience.  Yet, every day when I am painfully reminded about my new physical limitations, I become angry or depressed, which means I don’t truly yet understand grace.  I understand with my mind.  I can share the Gospel with anyone but it hasn’t yet invaded my heart and soul or I would actively seek ways to glorify God through my pain rather than resent him for it.

I heard a preacher say once that the longest and hardest trip a person can take is from the head to the heart and in between is the Damascus Road.  What I have learned is that it is possible to go to seminary, learn apologetics, preach, teach, counsel and share the Gospel without it fully consuming your existence but I hope it does for you and me.