“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.

“All of this is for your benefit”

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 25-26, 2 Corinthians 4, Psalm 53

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:8-18

There is power in our adversity.

Paul went through amazing hardships while sharing the gospel and yet his faith was never shaken. In fact he said to the Corinthians, “all this is for your benefit.” Paul knew the impact of fixing his eyes on the eternal was not just the power to survive these trials, but that it also had a massive impact on those who were in his sphere of influence as well.

When we see other people going through trials that we feel might cripple us, and yet they remain spirit filled, Christ focused, and optimistic throughout; we cannot help but stop and say, “I want whatever they have!”

“All of this is for your benefit.”

I am incredibly thankful to have seen this modeled throughout my life on so many occasions by some truly amazing individuals. The most impactful of these have been my father and mother. They did a fantastic job of modeling this mindset in general throughout our lives, but one particular story stands out above the rest for me.

Several years ago my Dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. His faith and optimistic attitude that God would see him through it never wavered. He went into brain surgery with a smile and his same fun loving attitude. When he had a hard time speaking clearly and one side of his face could barely move because of the surgery for the next several months, his smile stayed firm. When his two-year-old granddaughter that used to run full speed towards her grandfather whenever she saw him now approached nervously because Grandpa looked different, his attitude didn’t falter. He was focused on the eternal.

So was my mom. She was an absolute rock of support. At the time she was probably just trying to survive the emotions of this event. At the time, neither of them may have realized, or perhaps they did, but the example they set had power.

“All of this is for your benefit.”

My Dad has been cancer free for several years now, his speech is 100% recovered, the movement in his face is completely back to normal, and he is still the same fun loving father and grandfather he was prior to this encounter. The challenges have faded over time. The example he set, however, has not faded. The example he set will last a lifetime for me.

Three years later my wife and I needed that example when my daughter Sophie was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer at two months old. We needed to be able to look back at the optimism of my parents and their belief that God was ultimately in control. We needed to pull from what we saw modeled for us and fix our eyes on the eternal and remember what Paul said, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Like Paul’s trials, my Dad’s cancer had the ability to bring others to Christ as well as deepen the strength of conviction of folks who already professed faith in Jesus. His faith had power. Not only for himself, but also for others.

So did Sophie’s cancer.

So does your sickness.

So does your messy divorce.

So does your accident.

So does your time spent in jail.

So does your loss of a job.

Our relentless optimism in the face of adversity has the ability to point others to a father in heaven that is faithful. It has the ability to help others remember that these troubles truly are momentary, but our faith is eternal.

This can be so challenging. I am not trying to say that this type of faith Paul speaks of is easy, but all things are possible through Christ. And if you are struggling to grapple with the challenges you find yourself in currently, remember that this is the true value of community. Reach out to others in your church family who may have experienced something similar. If you don’t know any, ask your pastor or other Christian friends.

Sometimes before we can be the models for others, we need to see relentless faith modeled for us. There is no shame in this. Though we already know that the ultimate war has been won, the battle still rages.

There will be days where we do a better job of keeping our eyes fixed firmly on him, and on those days we will provide a powerful example for others. And there will be some days where we need to desperately look around for the “Paul” in our lives that is facing challenges with bravery from who we can borrow strength.

That is the power of community.

Some days we are Paul and some days we are the church at Corinth. This is a journey. None of us are capable of having our eyes perfectly fixed on Christ. If we were capable of perfection in our own strength, Jesus would not have had to come in the first place. However, when we live authentically with others, in our moments of strength and in our moments of weakness, there is power.

“All of this is for your benefit.”

Thought to ponder

Are there areas in my life where I have faced challenges that I could share more openly with others so that they might draw strength from my example? Are there any challenges in my life currently where I need to find a “Paul” to be a battle partner for me that can help me refocused my eyes on the eternal?

“It was God who sent me”

Daily Readings: Genesis 41-46

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

-Genesis 45:4-8

I absolutely the love the climax of the Joseph story that we read in Genesis today. I try to put myself in Joseph’s shoes and imagine how I would respond when my brothers show up all of those years later. It would be incredibly easy to be angry, resentful, and bitter towards the people that first tried to kill you and then sold you into slavery. These were the brothers that turned your life upside down for 13 years. How natural would it be to want to return the favor and use your current position of power to throw them into prison? How easy would it be to have the posture of your heart be, “You tried to harm me, but look at what I have accomplished in spite of your best efforts!” and be puffed up with pride and arrogance?

Instead Joseph wept. Joseph forgave instantly. Joseph gave all of the glory to God.

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

Joseph was sent ahead to save lives.

In our own lives, there are many challenges that we are faced with. There are many circumstances we endure throughout the course of our lives that naturally have the opportunity to cause anger, frustration, heartache, and bitterness; towards other people and towards God. In these moments, do we respond like Joseph?

At two months old, after a twelve-day hospital stay, my youngest daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and we embarked on a year of chemotherapy. It was a heartbreaking ordeal, but one of the very first conversations my wife and I had after receiving the diagnosis was about how we were going to choose to view this next phase of our journey. We made the decision early on to trust God with Sophie and to trust that he would use our story for his glory if we would allow it. There were still lots of challenges throughout that year, but it was so much more peaceful after turning it over to God.

Since then I have seen time and time again how that set of circumstances have allowed me to minister to others in a way I would not have been able to without them. I have seen God work through Sophie’s cancer to move in a powerful way in other people’s lives.

I don’t know if God caused Sophie’s cancer as a part of his larger story because it had a very specific purpose or whether Sophie went through cancer because we live in a fallen and broken world. There are circumstances in life that fall into both of those categories. Some trials are God ordained and some are a result of the sin in the world, choices that we make, and active attacks by the enemy. However, on one point the Bible is crystal clear.

Regardless of whether those challenges are God ordained, God will redeem those trials in your life and “send you ahead”, just like Joseph, if you are willing.

I look forward to asking God in heaven one day about various challenges I faced and whether he put them there for a purpose or if they were the result of choices I made that were not in line with his will or the result of living in a fallen and broken world. In the meantime, I have found a much greater sense of peace in accepting that I may not know for sure until that day, but that, in this moment, I do have the ability to trust that the God of the universe is going to use those trials to advance his story. I have a much higher degree of peace and thankfulness when asking God to use these challenges to “send me ahead”.

Thought to ponder

What trials have you faced in your own life that God can redeem to send you ahead?

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