Tag Archives: God
15,000. Give or take a few is the number of opioid pills I’ve taken. I had a diagnosis and a reason. The political climate isn’t favorable towards the opioid industry. Those of us who manage pain on a regular, daily basis find relief and solace in the form of those geometrically, constructed chemicals. Little did I understand the impact those 15,000 pills would have on my entire life. Neither, my doctor nor myself, understood that the drug I was taking was addictive when she prescribed it for pain. However, now gazing 21 years at the future, the medical community knows that the small dose I took acted as an opiate.
I was offered a couple of choices this summer. I could remain on the drug and go to a pain management clinic or I could try to live without it. I chose the latter. I wish I had known sooner the impact that choice would make ricocheting through my life.
Pain has been a constant companion. I fake being well. I’m really good at it. Decades of solitude and platitudes taught me to hone my skills. The basic fear of my personality I’ve discovered is of being deprived and in pain. My fear became my reality for decades. In every life, major markers exist. I can recall certain events in my life with clarity because they forever changed me and the course of my life. The day I woke up sick. The day I got a diagnosis. The day I quit opioids.
One day I was healthy and the next, I woke to pain accompanied by fever and barely able to move. I stymied doctor after doctor. None could figure out the source of my pain. I remained in that unanswered, mind-battling state for a year and a half. Finally, I received a diagnosis. I was relieved and, dare I say, joyful. To have a diagnosis- Heck! Any diagnosis was preferable to the not knowing. My doctor began a round of treatment to fit my particular disease. A short time later, she added the opioid because the pain persisted. Two pills a day every morning and every evening. The new normal. No one told me or warned me that I would have a brain fog that grew steadily worse each year. Or that this inhibiting drug would begin to change my personality and suppress my responses. I lost my effervescence and zest for life.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country … For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10
What does any of this story have to do with faith? Everything. During the time of not knowing, I turned and trusted in God to deliver me and to help me find joy in a life of constant pain and difficulty with no answers. Like Abraham, I was called to enter into a time of traveling with God until I came to the place to which He called me. My faith grew exponentially during that time. I fully relied on His strength to carry me through the valley of the shadow of death. Following the diagnosis, I praised Him for an answer and He carried me into a new journey of learning, growing, studying, and sharing His word. I did it through the pain, the bone-weary fatigue, the setbacks, and the comebacks with tears hoping for healing to which He responded; “No”. He reminded me that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). That girl lived her life serving the Lord with hardship. She had many questions, doubts, hurts, and much was forgiven and healed. She served cheerfully and joyfully with physical and mental difficulties.
Today, I’m on a new journey with God. He carried me through the crucible of withdrawal buoyed by the prayers of some in my church family. Powerful prayers. I’m three months off of opiates and I’m the same yet different. I have new prayers and new horizons.
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life … when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back.” Frodo Baggins -The Return of the King movie
I’ve been talking with someone to help me sort everything out and integrate my old life with my new future. She says it’s as if I’ve awakened from a decades long coma. I thought that my personality had shifted but actually the light just got turned on. The person I’ve been for decades wasn’t exactly me. She was asleep. The person I’m becoming is the me I was decades ago before I woke up sick and in pain. I don’t exactly remember her. Many things I’ve thought about myself aren’t true and I’m having to relearn and rediscover who I am. I’m searching for myself. Those 15,000 pills changed me and how I saw and perceived myself in the world. I don’t know what the future holds. My diagnosis hasn’t gone away. I still have pain. I’m only managing it differently. But this one thing I do know – God is good all the time. I can build my life on that truth.
Paul’s tenacious love for the Corinthian church is inspiring to me. I’m amazed by his continued love for them despite the attacks by the false teachers and the rejection that he received. Paul held fast to the hope that they would hold fast to the gospel. He displayed his uncommon love for them with these encouraging words.
“I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” 2 Corinthians 7:4
What is the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow? In our first lesson for the week, we studied these two viewpoints in addition to considering the joy Paul must’ve felt when he connected with Titus. Paul had been concerned by how the Corinthian church had received a previous letter from him. Titus’ report brought him the news he sought.
“Yet know I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9,10
Our lesson on Day 2 explored the principles of godly sorrow in more detail. We listed the seven results produced by godly sorrow and answered questions about our relationships. We also cross referenced a similar experience found in the book of Deuteronomy. Paul’s painful letter led the church to clarity about their actions. That clarity, in turn, led them to repentance and godly sorrow.
“See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged.” 2 Corinthians 7:11-13
On Day 3, we moved to a new chapter in the book of 2 Corinthians and onto a new topic that makes some believers squirm in church: Giving.
“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” 2 Corinthians 8:2
A couple of missionaries came to mind as I read our text for this lesson. Like the Macedonian churches, George Mueller and Amy Carmichael lived lives that were rich in grace yet filled with poverty. Their stories are worth reading. We also explored these two opposites, joy and poverty, throughout the remainder of our lesson. The last portion of this lesson focused on the life of Jesus and the gift of grace He offers us.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
The lesson on Day 4 focused on sacrificial giving. Paul reminded the Corinthians of their pledge to give and encouraged them to see the gift fulfilled. We reflected on our own personal struggles with follow through in regard to giving. We were reminded that we are to give to meet others’ needs [2 Corinthians 8:13-15]. We also considered the connection between sacrificial giving and having a need of our own supplied.
“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12
In our last lesson for the week, our attention was turned toward shared passions. We focused on our need for each other in ministry and the call to do our piece of the whole that God has called us to steward. We read in our assigned text that Titus was eager to answer Paul’s request. He shared his passion. Our questions explored the text but also steered us to consider our callings that the Lord has given each of us. Kelly Minter concluded our lesson with a question to consider how we can show proof to the ministry leaders of our churches the ways in which we value and love them.
Start Session 6 lessons beginning on page 127. All of the recaps for this study will be archived for use following the study’s conclusion.
Today marks the halfway point in our study. We were challenged in our first lesson of this session to consider what the word home means to each of us. When I think of home, my family and my actual house come to mind. I also think of intangible factors that evoke the feelings of home. Kelly Minter drew our attention away from these ideas to focus on our physical bodies, what Paul calls our earthly tents.
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-4
In this lesson, we cross referenced our reading passage from 2 Corinthians with 1 Corinthians 15:53,54. These verses reveal that Paul taught that the perishable and mortal body must be clothed with the immortal and imperishable body. In order to dwell with God in heaven, our bodies must change and be made new. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee, our assurance of that reality to come [2 Corinthians 5:5].
“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-9
On Day 2, our focus was directed to our motivation in ministry. What is our true heart’s intent when we serve our families, churches, and neighborhoods? The Corinthian church placed value on externals and Paul didn’t appear to offer them what they sought based on his outward appearance. But Paul defends his position that he did nothing for selfish gain but everything out of love for them. Paul stated his reason was that the love of Christ Jesus compelled him to love and serve others. We were taught the Greek word for compel found in this passage. One of the definitions for the word is “to be physically held.” Kelly Minter shared with us that “when the love of Jesus is what’s holding and compelling you, you will selflessly bless and serve others.” This statement rings true. I love the image this statement conjures in my mind that the love of Christ physically holds and compels me so my service to others is really Him at work through me.
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14,15
Our lesson on Day 3 centered around reconciliation. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf as believers, we have been reconciled to God through Christ. We are no longer what we were formerly. We are made new. Our relationship with God is restored. This reconciliation calls for us to be at peace and to offer peace to others. Paul states we are Christ’s ambassadors with a vital message that needs to be shared with others.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
On Day 4, we read of the tension and struggle that Paul faced in ministry. He was intentional about his ministry to others so the message that he brought of Jesus Christ was not discredited. In our lesson, we also listed the four virtues that characterized Paul’s ministry and the four methods that he used. We considered each of these in fuller detail. We also considered the couplets found in 2 Corinthians 6:8-10. These couplets are a firm reminder to me of the constant tension in my life of faith and my need for God.
Our last lesson for the week focused on relationships between believers and non-believers. These relationships are often referred to as being unequally yoked. As a new creation in Christ Jesus, we are yoked with Christ. We have become the temple of the living God. He dwells within us. A person who has not become a believer does not share the same spirit and heart’s desire. They are pulled in a different direction. These differences place the relationship at odds. We answered questions and cross referenced other scriptures during our study of this lesson.
“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”” 2 Corinthians 6:16
We’re halfway through our study! Start Session 5 this week.