“My grace is sufficient”

Daily Readings: Joshua 7-8, 2 Corinthians 12, Psalm 60

But the Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

My grace I sufficient for you.

On Sunday February 11th at 7 PM our family had just wrapped up a birthday party celebrating our amazing daughter Sophie turning 4 years old. Sophie is a cancer survivor that was diagnosed at just 2 months old with a rare form of cancer and, at this moment, is nearing 3 years cancer free.

Praise God!

It wasn’t more than 30 minutes after the last guest left that my wife called me upstairs and said we needed to go to the hospital. At the time we were 7 months pregnant and she had started bleeding significantly. We quickly called my parents, who only live a mile away, to come stay with our other three kids as we rushed to the hospital. The bleeding stopped by the time we got their, but the doctors told us they would be needing to keep Naomi there for observation for 5-7 days, because if it started again Naomi’s life and our unborn son’s life would be at risk at that point, and they would do an emergency cesarean section.

After being their several hours, they told me to go home, but to leave my phone on just in case. 90 minutes later, shortly after I had fallen asleep, the phone call came that I was desperately hoping to avoid, and I was driving as fast as I could back to the hospital, running inside, putting on scrubs, nervously waiting in the hallway, and finally entering the operating room with my wife.

Needless to say, it was an emotional several hours. That second drive to the hospital at 1:30 AM was the most scared I have ever been.

I threw out a group text at 8:08 PM when we were first heading to the hospital to a group of men that I do life with. Christian brothers in arms ready to go to battle with me and for me. The prayers began.

These are the moments earlier in my life where I would have waited until I knew more before sharing what was happening with anyone in my life.

“No point in worrying everyone. What if it is nothing? How will I look if I am just scared over something minor? Besides, they are busy, and I don’t want to burden them with something that might ultimately be no big deal.”

Lies crafted by an enemy with centuries of practice.

Satan wants us to do life alone. He wants you to believe that you are a burden to others, that no one really cares, that you are strong enough in your own power, and the power of prayer isn’t real anyway.

It isn’t until those moments in life where you have a child diagnosed with cancer, a wife being rushed into an emergency surgery, an infant taken up to the NICU, or any other extreme life event completely out of your control; that you realize what a complete illusion “control” is.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God has blessed our family with a fair amount of worldly success. We have an amazing family, I run a successful company, we have incredible friends, and by lots of worldly standards, we are a success story.

Rarely has any of our worldly success given us the ability to minister to others and speak about God’s glory in the same way we have been able to because of Sophie’s cancer. Already, in just a short week and a half, I believe that the experience spanning February 11th-12th has already allowed us to give glory to God more than any career accomplishment ever could.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Naomi is recovering well from her surgery. Andrew, as of Feb 23rd, is still in the NICU and will most likely remain there for another week or two, but is moving in the right direction faster than we could have hoped for.

God is good.

However, God is not just good because of this individual result. When I sat outside the operating room while they prepped Naomi my prayer over and over again was, “You are a good God. You are a good good father. Regardless of the outcome, I know this to be true.” I prayed that same prayer when we first got the news with Sophie.

God already knows this. This prayer was necessary for my own heart.

In a perfect world, I would rather not have our newborn need to spend the first 3-4 weeks of his life in the NICU. I would rather that his sisters (who are super excited to meet their baby brother!) not have to wait a month to meet the newest addition to our family because kids under 18 are not allowed in the NICU. I would rather everything had gone beautifully according to plan.

Our plan.

However, Paul said it perfectly today:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  

We have always said as a family that we want to live out James 1:2-4 when James wrote, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

We decided about five months ago that our son’s middle name would be James in honor of this book in the Bible. We never expected he would live into his name so quickly!

However, we are considering it pure joy.

I know this trial will be far from the last we will face as a family as we journey through life, and this one is still not yet over, but his grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in our weakness.

Faithfully marching around Jericho

Daily Readings: Joshua 5-6, 2 Corinthians 11, Psalm 59

“Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.’

When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!”

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.”

Joshua 6:1-5, 8-11, 16, 20

One aspect of the story of Joshua and Jericho never really struck me until today when reading this story again; Joshua never told the Israelite army about the seventh day. He did not go to them saying, “Here is the plan…” and lay out for them exactly what God instructed him to do. In the minds of the army, there was no definite timeline. They were simply told to march.

When reading this morning it occurred to me that there must have been two distinct types of people in the Israelite army when Joshua told them to start marching around the city. There surely were those that trusted in God completely, along with Joshua’s leadership, and marched with full confidence that the city of Jericho would be delivered into their hands at some point.

However, there must have been some who were marching day after day, tension mounting, fear building, and patience growing thin. I have to imagine they were wondering what the plan was, feeling less and less confident the more time that went by, and getting a bit stir crazy, wanting to divert from the plan and take some other course of action.

There have been so many times in my life where I have existed in each of these groups. There have been times where I unconditionally believe in the path God has set me on, knowing that I am marching around the walls of Jericho and that they will eventually fall if only I have the patience to keep marching.

However, there are many times where I start to ask, “God, can’t these walls crumble already? How much longer must I continue to march dutifully before these walls begin to fall?”

There have been so many moments where I feel like I am running out of time, money, patience, stamina, love for others, emotional energy, etc. I am just not sure how much longer I can march around Jericho unless the walls fall soon.

I imagine we have all been there. I imagine we have all had jobs, ministry opportunities, friends we want to reach for Christ, people we are mentoring, or habits we are trying to form/break; where we are just not sure how much longer we are going to be able to march.

What is your Jericho right now? What is the path God has set you on, where it is day 4, 5, or 6, and you are starting to tire of the relentless marching?

In many cases we might be more like Moses wandering through the desert, as opposed to Joshua and the army marching around Jericho. The season we are in is not simply 7 days of patience, but years, even decades.

God is faithful.

We do not always have the luxury of being Joshua, knowing the exact timeline and waiting patiently for that beautiful seventh day. It is extremely rare that I have seen God put on my heart a concrete timeline for his promises.

More often than not, he simply wants me to march. He wants me to wake up day after day, put on my armor, pick up my spiritual weapons and shield, and go to battle against whatever comes my way.

Based on the entire rest of the old testament, I am assuming that God would not have been overwhelmingly pleased if the armies had decided to simply stop marching after day 4. I am guessing he would have burned with fury had they started grumbling and saying, “What is the point of all this marching God?” and simply sat back in their camp waiting for a different plan, looking for a different path.

God wants faithful servants willing to march. And when we remain faithful, whatever walls he intends to collapse, whatever metaphorical cities he intends to deliver into our hands will always be delivered. God’s plan is not always our plan and his timing is not always our timing, but it is always the right plan. It is always to right timing.

The question is, will we faithfully march?

Thought to ponder

What is my Jericho? Where is my patience growing thin where I have been tempted to just stop marching?

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