Last week I celebrated the 6th anniversary of my elbow surgery. Seems like a silly thing to celebrate, huh? Well, in my case, there’s cause for celebration. Much progress has been made since May 19, 2011. You see, things didn’t quite go as planned. The tendon had completely torn from the bone so proceeding with surgery was the only sensible option at that point. It was the aftermath that was completely unexpected. For some unknown reason, every joint up and down my right arm, including my fingers, essentially “froze” and there was very limited mobility as a result. There is no need to bore you with all the details. I will just say that my life for the first four years following surgery consisted of countless doctor appointments, various types of therapy, and pills of every description, all with the goal of restoring my range of motion and managing the pain. For the last two years of the six, I am pleased to say that the doctor appointments and pills have been minimal and the therapy mainly consists of getting in the pool to keep things moving. To the eye, my physical issues go undetected by most at this point.
I won’t soon forget May 19th (for a few reasons actually—one of my sisters has a birthday that day). That date causes me to stop and reflect on where I was, where I am now and all the progress that has been made in between those two points. As I do that, there is a verse that really speaks to me. I remember learning it in a small group study somewhere along the way. The verse is tucked into the story of God making a covenant promise to David through the prophet Nathan that secured David’s, as well as his family’s, place on the throne. This is David’s response:
Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”
2 Samuel 7:18 NLT
I don’t know why my surgery had a bad outcome, but I do know this—it is only by the grace of God that I have come THIS far. He has seen me through each step along the way, supplying everything I need just when I need it. My journey back from elbow surgery is much like my spiritual journey—-I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I was either. I believe we refer to that as progress! As long as I have breath, He’s not done with me yet. I am a work in progress with the goal being to look more like Jesus each day.
So what’s your story? I know I’m not alone. We’ve all stumbled upon roadblocks along life’s path at one point or another. They come in all shapes and sizes. What circumstances have you feeling defeated today? Don’t give up! He will make a way where there is no way. I share with you the words of Paul:
“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:19 NLT
It’s true for me and it’s true for you too. Someday you’ll look in the rearview mirror just as I tend to do on May 19th and you will be equally amazed that He has brought you THIS far!
Earlier this semester I was teaching my students how to solve and graph the solution of compound inequalities and found myself repeatedly saying, “It’s all about the word.” I’ll spare you the math lesson and just tell you that a compound inequality is two simple inequalities joined by the word and or the word or. That word happens to have a huge impact on the solution set.
As I was teaching this lesson and heard myself repeating that same sentence over and over, I heard His still small voice whisper, “That’s right, Polly, it IS all about the word—MY word.” Just as AND or OR has a dramatic effect on the solution set of a compound inequality, God’s word has that same potential in our lives.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
Hebrews 4:12 NLT
When we get into God’s word, His word gets into us. It is potent enough to stir our souls and bring about change in our lives. Through His word, we can learn who we are as well as who and what we are not as it cuts to the very core of our being. As His word works in us, we’ll be faced with decisions:
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
James 1:22-25 NIV
Have you noticed that doing the right thing is often also the hard thing? We can simply listen to God’s word or we can act on what we hear and apply it to our lives. The latter requires far greater effort, but the payout is worth it. The result of applying His word to our lives—we look more like Jesus! Isn’t that the goal?
I’m suddenly reminded of something else I’ve been known to say to my students regarding their effort—you get out of it what you put into it. Ugh…looks like I’d better take my own advice!
In this world you will have trouble… (John 16:33 NIRV)
You may not remember being a toddler yourself, but have you ever witnessed one expressing his newfound independence with the words, “I can do it myself!”? That thought generally continues far beyond the age of 2. In fact, I’m still struggling with it 50 years later. Oh, how the enemy loves that attitude! It feeds right into his plans to separate us from God.
As parents, we want our children to be able to stand on their own two feet and become independent adults. That’s a great goal, but perhaps we should be more specific and limit the object of that independence to people. No matter our age, trying to “do it ourselves” leads to pride and drives a wedge between us and our Creator.
When trouble strikes and the burdens are mounting, we quickly find that we can’t do it ourselves. Well, okay, maybe not quickly. I will admit, I often try to fix it myself first. Perhaps you do too. That’s not the way God drew it up though. He wants us to live in dependence on Him, not independent of Him. God doesn’t want us depending on anyone else. Humans will fail us; He won’t. While the enemy wants nothing more than for us to think we alone can handle whatever trouble finds us, Jesus says,
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
Are you tired of trying to go it alone? Weary from hauling around your burdens? This promise is for you. Jesus wants to lighten your load and give you rest. He simply asks that you come to Him. That’s a pretty good deal, don’t you think?
But wait, it gets better! I never completed my opening verse. Yes, we WILL have trouble here on earth. Jesus then says,
“But cheer up! I have won the battle over the world.” (John 16:33 NIRV)
Or, in the words of a dear friend, “I read the end of the book. We win!”
Thank you, Jesus, for going to the cross and dying for my sins so that I may have life and have it in abundance. Help me to fully understand that you are all I need. If I stay focused and seek you above all else, you will meet my needs. Help me do my part and, by faith, trust you to do yours. Amen.