God Has Bigger Plans For You
2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Ah, the manifold ways God uses suffering. What an unusual and odd-shaped tool it is in his deft hands, capable of all kinds of good, and yet, like wide-eyed patients laying on the operating table, we shrink back from the shiny instrument of suffering, moving in every direction to avoid its touch – especially in America today.
On March 3, 2020, I found out that I have Type I diabetes. It was a shock, it immediately changed my life, and it will be a disease I have until I die. While it does not compare with the pain, impact, and risks of many diseases, an extra portion of suffering has been added to my plate (and it replaces that nice afternoon soda I have often enjoyed so much). I accept both the good and the evil that God places in my life (Job 2:10), in fact I believe I’ve received a triple portion of undeserved good from God that far outweighs this disease. But what purpose does God have for me in my diabetes? One obvious change that loomed before me was that of being more limited. I imagine this is often the case for those who have big plans and get sick. “I wanted to do so much, why is God holding me back, limiting me?”
John MacArthur Jr. summarizes a few of the good, powerful, biblical uses God has for suffering in the introduction to his book on Job.
“God ordains that his children walk in sorrow and pain, sometimes because of sin (cf. Num. 12:10–12), sometimes for chastening (cf. Heb. 12:5–12), sometimes for strengthening (cf. 2 Cor. 12:7–10; 1 Pet. 5:10), and sometimes to give opportunity to reveal his comfort and grace (2 Cor. 1:3–7). But there are times when the compelling issue in the suffering of the saints is unknowable because it is for a heavenly purpose that those on earth can’t discern (cf. Ex. 4:11; John 9:1–3).”
So, which of these was behind my diabetes? In his mercy, God did not even allow me to consider this question fully. The morning after I received the news, I read this quote in my devotional reading and it has changed me forever.
“You may have been in the fires and have been having a pretty hard and painful time in your spiritual life, but that only means that God has been preparing you for something more. No, God is not a God who believes in bringing everything to an end. He is always after something more. And if He has to clear the way for something more by devastating methods (Cross), well, that is all right, for it is something more that he is after. There is so much more, far, far transcending all our asking or thinking. (Miles J. Stanford, None But the Hungry Heart, p.46)"
More, more, more! This hit me like the opening of the gates at Disneyland! God, you didn’t give me diabetes to hold me back, to limit me. You don’t want to do LESS with me, you’re not a God of less…you always want to do MORE with me! More than you could do before. The problem is that I don’t think big enough, I think too small – I would never have given myself a disease. But you did, and that means you have an even BIGGER plan for my life than I imagined. You won’t allow your plans to be pent up by my small view of pain, inconvenience, or sacrifice.
A few days after I was diagnosed, I drove to meet a friend for coffee and was again considering this new understanding I have for how suffering frees up our life to be more, not less. I found myself confessing out loud, with my whole heart, for the first time, “Thank you Lord, for giving me diabetes.” This amazing paradox touches my deepest emotions.
So, using the specifics of my real life today (and for the rest of my life, just like Paul’s thorn in the flesh) I join him in this personalized version of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
God, I believe that your power is made perfect in my diabetes. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my diabetes, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with diabetes, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak and limited, then your strength is unleashed through me in new ways that were locked before! And I want more of you!