Scripture: … I was given a painful physical ailment . . . Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked Him to take it away. But His answer was “My grace is all you need, for my power is strongest when You are weak.” (II Corinthians 12: 7b, 8, & 9a).
And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7)
Meditation: I have known many dear friends who live or lived with a “thorn in the flesh” which God, for reasons known only to Himself, chose not to remove, giving each of these dear people grace and peace instead.
Victor suffers from severe insulin-dependent diabetes and painful spasms in his legs. He prayed that God would save his right leg from amputation, but instead God graced him with a wonderful attitude; a determination that gave him the ability to walk with a prosthesis; a terrific smile and sense of humor; and a peace and a gratitude to God for life that caused staff members and other patients at Christ House to try harder, too.
Raul, another patient, was not delivered of the “thorn” of terminal cancer, but God gave him the gracious gifts of reunion with estranged family members; renewal of his faith; the assurance of forgiveness of his past sins; and a place he came to know as home where he peacefully departed this world with caring medical staff and family at his side.
Carolyn was not to win her battle with cancer, either, but that did not stop her from spreading her love. Despite her terminal cancer and her bipolar disorder, God’s grace, peace, and love shone through her. She would always be the first person at Christ House to buy and circulate a greeting card for anyone’s birthday. And she helped out in the dining hall there until a day or two before she died. She departed this world in peace and victory.
Our friends Kathy from Richmond and Becky from Phoenix, and Ethel from Fredericksburg all fought their terminal illnesses so valiantly. Each prayed earnestly for healing. Friends and family and sometimes just acquaintances and total strangers prayed fervently for healing, but in the end God took them to their heavenly home. And yet, in their relatively short lives God’s very-evident grace and peace produced so much love in action. Kathy, Becky, and Ethel were “doers of the Word, not hearers only.” All three were doing for others nearly up to the day they passed into an everlasting life of joy and peace.
Before Ethel departed, it was my great privilege on several occasions to sit at her bedside and sing softly to her. When she could she would join me, singing in a faint voice. One hymn we sang was “For All the Saints [Who From Their Labors Rest],” with words by William W. How set to the beautiful music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Verses 2, 5, and 6 go like this:
Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Prayer: Lord God, often we do not understand Your ways. Nevertheless, help us to be ever-growing in Your grace this Christmas season and all our lives, for You in Your peace-giving grace are sufficient for all our needs. Amen.
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