Monday, October 06, 2014

Submission and the Mutual Lust for Autonomy

In last week's sermon in the series on gender from The Village Church, the pastor commented on Adam and Eve's mutual desire for autonomy exhibited in those moments leading to the fall in the garden. When talking about men and women in the Church, we sometimes talk about mutual submission. Sometimes we talk about a woman's desire to usurp authority over the man. But whatever you think about those two subjects, I would like to talk instead about the mutual lust for autonomy that both male and female exhibited in the garden, a mutual lust for independence that is still evident today. The problem with interpreting Genesis 3:16 to teach that women more than men have a desire to control is not that women don't often act independently of God, but that, first, that's not what this verse is saying, and two, men struggle with such lust for autonomy as much if not more than women. But who gets rebuked for rebellion in most modern Christian dialogue? Who gets instructed to obey their authorities? Have you heard an argument for submission lately that doesn't focus on wives to husbands, kids to parents, or church members to elders? In my little neck of the woods, discussions on submission get aimed at these groups. Period. Today, I want to talk about our mutual lust for autonomy and the widespread need in the Body of Christ for submission that transcends gender. Who, oh husband, parent, pastor, or judge, are YOU submitted to? Who can tell you NO?
Ephesians 5:21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
If I use the words mutual submission, most think of an egalitarian approach to marriage. Mutual indicates that something is done between two parties in equivalent ways. What I want to explore is not exactly mutual submission, though it's clear in Scripture that authorities are to serve those under their care, which does look a lot like mutual submission. But there are distinctions. The similarities between submission and service are good to recognize, but the distinctions are every bit as important. The Greek for submit (hupotasso) is a term that is used of military/government authority and indicates lining up behind someone in authority. Note that Jesus “was subject” to His parents according to Luke 2:51, using this same word from Ephesians 5. Jesus' example sets our notions of submission on its side and demands of us a thorough examination of any teaching on Biblical submission.

Here are principles I don't hear emphasized on this subject:

1. Everyone submits to someone. Note that everyone doesn't submit to everyone, which gets into an egalitarian understanding and application of submission. But everyone does submit to someone. And everyone submits to someone ON EARTH. Even Jesus, perfect Savior and now our King, submitted not just to His Father in heaven but also to His parents on earth (Luke 2:51). Instead of mutual submission, I call this global submission.

2. The line of submission to authority is actually not a line! Jesus circled around and submitted to His parents even as He was becoming King of the universe. God's authority structure is more like a complicated Venn diagram than a straight line from general to lieutenant to soldier in the field.

As someone who values submission, I now understand how missing these principles sets us up for failure. Consider the particular example of submission to parents. We can look at parents and children and extrapolate for other relationships involving hupotasso.

Jesus' submission to His parents is telling. If Jesus had to submit to His parents, we should be cautious around any leader who makes an argument for dismissing his. Jesus was greater than His parents, more righteous than His parents, and wiser than His parents. AND He was subject to His parents. There are all kinds of thought-provoking issues here. Now, every parent who also is submitted to Scripture knows that parental authority changes when children become adults. We see this in Jesus' life as well. Yet, there is no expiration date on the command to honor our parents. Again, Jesus' example reinforces this.

But when does submission to parents break down? For Jesus, it broke down when His parents didn't understand properly the authority (God) that they and Jesus were both under (Luke 2:49). If it was a choice between doing what His parents expected and being about the work of His ultimate authority, God the Father, Jesus did what the ultimate authority asked. However, immediately after this moment of discrepancy between His earthly authorities and His heavenly One, Jesus stepped right back into hupotasso with His parents (Luke 2:51).

Submission breaks down most clearly when immediate authorities aren't submitted to anyone themselves. In terms of hupotasso, the implication of the word is a linking of authorities – not always a straight line, but one entity deriving authority from another.  A parent's authority breaks down when they break the law. Parents' authority breaks down when they won't submit to their own church authorities. Parents' authority breaks down when they won't submit to the Word. Parents' authority breaks down when they don't honor their own parents. We need to understand WHY authority and submission breaks down. And then we need to understand what to do in response.

In the case of a parent who breaks the law with their children, we usually agree that the parent has lost their authority over that child. Authorities rightly stand in place of the parents in that case. The brother who sees his sister beaten by his dad and intervenes is making the right choice. He is submitted to an ultimate authority greater than his parent that says abuse must be stopped -- who says it is wrong to look away. The state that takes those kids away from the abusive parent is doing right as well. This too is hupotasso (Romans 13:1).

Extrapolate these principles to pastoral authority, family authority, work authority, or government authority. In any scenario, submission breaks down when an authority demands submission that they do not practice themselves -- when an authority demands submission to themselves but autonomy for themselves.  Submission breaks down when there is not a higher authority to which one can appeal when an authority misuses their influence. In church history, this truth has been embraced in the form of presbyteries. Many believers today are returning to denominations with historic accountability structures not because they don't value submission but because they realize that submission fails without authorities who are also in submission.

Scripture gives us sober warnings about our global desire for autonomy and its ugly outworkings. Authorities who lust for their own autonomy rebel against God by the very act of lording their authority over those in their care. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, and that applies to both parent and child, boss and employee, husband and wife, and pastor and church member. God's universal instruction is to “listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days” (Proverbs 19:20). Beware the authority that submits to no authority, and understand in that moment that your Venn Diagram of godly authority structures gives you options. The answer to ungodly use of authority is not to dismiss all authority. If Proverbs is to be believed, we all need authoritative voices speaking into our lives, and it is wisdom for us to put away our lust for autonomy and embrace instruction from those God has given in His graciousness to guide us. No, the answer to ungodly authority is godly authority. Autonomous authorities are tools of Satan, but those who are submitted themselves are gifts from God for the good of the Church.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Third Way on Gender

“Is there not a 'Third Way'?” Tom Hanks as Professor Dorr, The Lady Killers
I often talk to women and men in leadership positions in the Church concerned for a third way of talking about gender. The public microphones seem to be held by Rachel Held Evans on one side and Mark Driscoll on the other.* The issue is that each side seems to co-opt half the verses on gender for themselves, using the ones they consider theirs to write off the ones they don't.

The liberal microphone gets “submit to one another.” The conservative one gets “wives submit.” The liberal one gets Euodia and Syntyche who labored beside Paul in gospel ministry. The conservative one gets Paul's instructions for women keeping silent in the church. The liberal mike likes Phoebe and Junia. The conservative one I Peter 3 and I Timothy 2. Liberals get the women prophesying in I Corinthians 11. Conservatives get the instructions for women to learn in silence in I Corinthians 14. 

Deborah judged in the Old Testament. Junia was well known among the apostles. Priscilla discipled church leaders. Phoebe was a deacon who likely carried the book of Romans to the Roman church. Euodia and Syntyche labored beside Paul in gospel ministry. Which side of the microphone do these women fall? The liberal microphone wants these women. The conservative microphone seems to ignore them altogether. But what if all the verses on women actually work together in conjunction? And what if they work in conjunction with everything else in Scripture as well?

There is a third way on gender, and I'd argue it's actually the Biblical way – the way that keeps all the verses, reading them all in light of the redemption story. It starts with creation, men and women as image bearers of God. It understands the fall and the impact of sin on both genders. And it capitalizes on redemption, Jesus' atonement for our sin that equips us to once again be image bearers of God. I envision a third way that centers around redemptive image bearing.

As a woman, I've thought long and hard about what God created me to be, and what particular giftings I have as a woman that reflect His character. Before the fall, God called the first woman an ezer, which is a word with deep meaning. We should all understand the meaning of this word and value it as we should the first mention of anything in Scripture. My heart swells to think of what it would do for women's discipleship and general gospel ministry in the church if pastors and lay leaders grasped the beauty of what God puts forward when He calls the first woman ezer.

I've expounded on ezer many times over the years, so I'm rehashing old stuff, but here goes:

The Hebrew word ezer means to help, nourish, sustain, or strengthen. Ezer is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament, sixteen of which are descriptions of God himself, reflecting the fact that the woman was created to bear the image of God. Consider the use of ezer in Deuteronomy 33: 29.
Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places. NIV
God himself is called our helper, our ezer, the same word used of the first woman in Genesis 2: 18. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is also called our Helper, Counselor, and Comforter (depending on which translation of the Bible you use. These are all translations of the Holy Spirit’s role of paraklete, or one who comes alongside in aid). God is our Help. The Holy Spirit is our Helper. When we understand God’s role as ezer, it gives us needed perspective. God, Sovereign Lord of the Universe, is our helper, and we, as women, are created in His image.
Hebrews 13:6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper;   I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Consider God’s example on this issue of help. In Exodus 18: 4, God our help “delivered … from the sword,” defending His own in contrast to attacking or ignoring the fight altogether. In Psalm 10: 14, God our help sees and cares for the oppressed. Rather than being indifferent or unconcerned, He is the “helper of the fatherless.” In Psalm 20: 2 and 33: 20, God our help supports, shields and protects. In Psalm 70: 5, God our help delivers from distress. In Psalm 72: 12-14, God our help rescues the poor, weak, and needy. All of these verses use the same word God used of the first woman! God Himself is our example on what it means for a woman to be a helper suitable to the needs of her male counterpart. God designed us to reflect His compassion, support, protection, comfort, and deliverance of those in His care from distress. We are called to be conduits of God’s grace in our homes, churches, and communities. We are called to be like Christ.

Now think of the names I listed earlier – Phoebe, Priscilla, Eudodia, Syntyche ….  In light of this exposition of ezer, their work in the early church makes sense to me. Each gives a brief glimpse of early church ezers, redeemed to be image bearers of God once more. Helping Paul, discipling Apollos, serving the Roman church.

I am complementarian, and I am particularly burdened for those listening to the conservative end of the microphone because that is my tribe. I believe that the office of elder in a church is limited to men. I believe that there is order in God's authority structure, and wives are to submit to their husbands (who should submit to their authorities as well). I believe that God created the genders with different but overlapping roles. In light of where I find myself, I will offer these suggestions to those on the conservative end:

1. Avoid referring negatively to discussion on how we involve women in gospel ministry as a slippery slope. Even if there is a slope, not all slippery slopes land in liberalism. Perhaps this one slides down into Biblical obedience! Until we can point to the Phoebes, Euodias, Syntyches, and Priscillas that we have discipled into gospel ministry in our own congregations, we are likely not reflecting a New Testament model of women in our churches, in which case, there is something worth slipping toward.

2. Support women deacons. If you have a Biblical model of plurality of elders (see Alexander Strauch's Biblical Eldership), there should be no problem putting women in official roles as deacons in the church.  In fact, it should deeply grieve you anytime you see women denied this role that was available to them in the New Testament and throughout the history of the Church.  See this post for a more thorough treatment of the subject.

3. Value women as helpers, and not just in the “running the nursery” sense of the word. Put away suspicion of women leaders in the church and cultivate their voices. Invite them to offer their opinion and value their feedback. My church is building a women's advisory session to come alongside the elder session to give important feedback from a woman's perspective. Why? Because they VALUE women's voices rather than being suspicious of them.

4. Disciple women to come alongside leaders in gospel ministry. What does this look like? Well, I can't tell you exactly, but it's worth trying to figure out! Read through the account of Priscilla. Think about Junia and Phoebe. Consider Paul's brief description of Euodia and Syntyche. Then prayerfully consider how we can cultivate female co-laborors with us in gospel ministry as Paul did.

Here's the key to all of this – putting away knee jerk suspicions of women that have often characterized our tribe. Are some women gossips? Yes. But redemption gives us hope for discipling women to confess and forsake gossip and instead use their voices to speak truth in helpful ways for flourishing gospel ministry in our churches.

I hope pastors and lay leaders will look at the women in their churches and ask, “Do I actually value their help? Do I respect what God created them to be in my life, strong ezers reflecting God's own help of His children?” Leaders, are you perplexed by gossips in your church? Have you considered discipling them to use their voice in better ways and then given them a way to do it?

I hope these questions are helpful points of reflections as we think of how redemption equips us to reclaim the power of ezers in gospel ministry and the life of the Church.

* That's a caricature of the two ends of the spectrum, and yet those two have gone head to head enough times on the issue of gender to warrant their names to be used.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Kingdom Come at Church Retreat

God doesn't have to talk me into praying the Lord's Prayer. “Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I naturally long for God's kingdom to come and His will to be done. It is a regular groaning of my soul before God in prayer. Usually in life, I feel vexed by all the ways God's kingdom is not yet realized. I pray, “Lord, show me where You are at work. Show me where Your kingdom is coming.” I need to see what is good in order to persevere through what is bad.

This weekend my family went to Church Retreat, and I got a glimpse of the good. I got a little glimpse of where God's kingdom is already coming, and I got a little glimpse of what it's going to look like when it comes in its fullness. There just seems to be something about a Christian retreat that naturally clears away many stumblingblocks to seeing God's kingdom come.

Retreat – the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; dictionary.reference.com 

We withdraw from big and small issues at a retreat. I didn't see anyone all weekend with whom I had a major conflict (or even a minor one for that matter). I didn't do laundry all weekend. I didn't cook. I didn't have to wash dishes, and my kids are old enough now that I could send them on their merry way to play with others on their bikes. I also took a break from reading work emails. I didn't take my laptop and managed to ignore the boatload of responsibilities that were still waiting on me when I returned home. For 2 days, I didn't worry about any of those things.

Instead, I did things like breath deeply and enjoy the sunset. I hiked a path through the woods and watched kids happily playing in the pool. I took in views of the ocean and mountains while sharing laughs at the dinner table, enjoying meals I didn't make and didn't have to clean up. Of course, angels weren't making our dinners or cleaning up afterwards. Someone was doing the work. Yet, I remember well from my own service at a Christian camp and conference center that there are certain settings in which you remember that work didn't start after the fall.  You remember that God worked in perfection, and there is work that is hard but still good, rewarding, and peaceful nonetheless. I think I could work in that camp kitchen with that view and that blue sky at that temperature with those people daily without complaint for a very long time.  We whistle while we work when God's kingdom comes.

Our church retreat reflected to me the Eden for which we were originally designed and also pointed me to the New Jerusalem in which we will eternally dwell. 

Two particular aspects of this Eden stood out to me—community without conflict and worship in the face of majesty. First, community without conflict. I know that there likely was conflict at various levels for many participants this weekend. For many, just the stress of having small children in a new setting inevitably caused conflicts. But I was fortunate to experience a mostly conflict free weekend of community. My boys experienced community with both kids their age and grownups, including the mutual sharing of bikes and scooters. At meals, kids mingled in and out of families. In the evening, parents would put down kids to sleep then sit together outside their cabins talking and laughing. There was a mutual nature to the community this weekend that made me understand the beauty of the early church as described in Acts.

Second, we worshipped in the face of majesty. I love Sunday worship. And I love beautiful landscapes. But Sunday worship in a beautiful landscape, well that's almost unbeatable. It reminds me that we were created for paradise. Eden was a step beyond the Corona commercial. And whatever the landscape surrounding the New Jerusalem, we know it will be glorious for God Himself is its sun. There is something about worshipping God in the beauty of His creation that increases the joy of worship for me exponentially.

Then I had to drive away from the retreat, back down into the slog of daily life. I wanted to grasp and hold on to the feelings of community and worship for dear life, but I knew it was fleeting—a vapor that I could not grab and contain. Others had to get back to work and school as much as my family did, and it's hard to have community when everyone else leaves the compound. But I am holding on to the feelings that community without conflict and worship in the face of majesty evoked in me this weekend. The memory of how that felt reminds me this busy Monday of what I was created for in perfection and what God is calling me back to for eternity with Him. That little glimpse ministers much grace to me, whetting my appetite for the day His kingdom comes in its fullness. Lord, come quickly.

Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blessings and Cursing: Reflections on Mark Driscoll Stepping Down

To no one's surprise, there has been great public discourse surrounding Mark Driscoll's announcement on Sunday of his temporary absence from Mars Hill and public speaking. Much analysis has been given the words he actually said. I don't want to focus on that here, except to say that, once again, I note worldly sorrow as opposed to godly sorrow in his words. Godly sorrow leads to repentance, and authentic repentance reflects sincere concern about how your sin affected the one you sinned against. Mark's words were completely lacking in any concern about the specific people he has sinned against (though he said much about himself and his general love for the larger church). However, I trust that this season of reflection will help him grow in awareness of exactly how he has harmed specific individuals, and I am hopeful that sincere confession and repentance will take place. 

Instead of focusing on what Mark said, I'd like to discuss the types of voices speaking up about this situation. I note three general types of voices (with some exceptions). There are strong voices of complete negativity – in their opinion, Mars Hill always was a cult, and they saw Mark Driscoll as a wolf from the beginning. Then there are strong voices of complete positivity – Mark Driscoll's preaching changed their life, and though Mark isn't perfect, he has been used by God and is now under persecution. The third voice includes mine and that of many friends I have in this area. I think our voice isn't as loud, often drowned out by the other two, but maybe I'm wrong. We are the conflicted. We love Mark and Mars Hill. But we also dearly love those run over by Mark when they rightly sought to correct him. We saw Jesus work through Mark's sermons. But we also felt the lash of his verbal violence through some of those sermons as well. We made precious friendships through Mars Hill. But we were also shunned by some of those friends when we felt the need to find another church. And, for many of us around in the early years, we saw Mark apologize and try to correct when he acted out in anger.

The specifics of my private experiences with Mark should remain private, but I will say generally that I felt the wounding lash of his anger during my time at Mars Hill. But he also specifically repented and publicly apologized in front of those who had heard his words against me. He sinned, but he genuinely repented. So when Mark Driscoll said in his announcement Sunday that he has sought out many to ask specific forgiveness, that is a truthful saying. The problem is that even in the situation with me, there was another woman that he sinned against with even worse words than he used against me. He said them specifically to her and her husband in a public members' forum, and he dug his heels in the sand with them, to this day never asking their forgiveness. He's often practiced a selective repentance, but he has repented clearly and specifically to some.

I also experienced legitimate one-on-one pastoral care of myself and my family in my early years at Mars Hill directly from Mark and his wife. I grew from many of his sermons as well. I'll never forget his “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas” sermon, about the whores in Jesus' lineage. Of course, that title draws attention and ire in a classic Mark Driscoll move. Yet the sermon was also beautiful and redemptive, as he brought out the former shame of those women's stories and the dignity and worth God placed on them by naming them in Jesus' lineage. It was not misogynistic, and it treated wounded women with respect. But it was taught with women in the room who had read his pussified nation rant just a year before, where apparently the worst criticism he can think of to aim at a man is that he acts like a woman. Just one more example of the dissonance that contributes to the tone of voice of those who have experienced both deeply good things along with deeply bad things under Mark's ministry.

James articulates well the tension felt by those who have experienced the good and the bad.
James 3     5 How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
No passage in all of Scripture better describes Mark Driscoll's ministry than verses 9-10. It is this dissonance between the proclamation of Jesus' name and the verbal arrows aimed at His Bride that is the greatest sin of Mark's and the greatest harm to the testimony of Christ. James says clearly that this dissonance "ought not to be so.” It is this very dissonance that James rebukes that is the worst of the issues at Mars Hill. If Mark had only been a heretic, that would open him to a different rebuke. But James' rebuke is specifically for the situation Mark and Mars Hill find themselves in now. Blessing the Father in one breath but cursing (sometimes literally) His precious children made in His image with the next. Lifting up the name of Jesus while joking of running over the very ones Jesus came to save -- these things should not be so.

I have a deep burden for those in the 2nd category I outlined in the opening paragraph – the ones who diminish the cursing because the blessing in their lives has been so profound. First of all, you guys say some really hurtful things to those who recognize Mark's disqualifying sin. The motives you attribute to those with first hand experience speaking to these issues is troubling. But it's not unexpected. My bigger concern is that the time will come when you will see the cursing for what it is, and then you will start to question the blessing you experienced. If you are at that point and happen to be reading this post, my encouragement to you is that the blessings you experienced were indeed blessings. Mars Hill is not the first church that God worked through even as He disciplined them for their systemic sin. God did real things in your heart to draw you to Himself, and I hope you won't discount those things, the blessings, as you wrestle with the ugly things, the cursing.

But understand too that the good, according to James, that God has done in your life does not excuse the bad that was done to others. James says clearly that there is a major problem, worthy of strong rebuke, when both of these things coincide in one person and their ministry. It causes confusion. It causes people to question their faith. It's like a pond that flows with both fresh and salt water – so out of sorts that the dissonance ultimately robs it of its usefulness. This is where Mars Hill now finds itself, and James says strongly that these things should not be. May God root out the cursing and the disrespect for individual image bearers of God. May repentance for each act of spitting upon an image bearer be confessed and corrected.

If you are in category 2, struggling because you have experienced blessing at Mars Hill, you are justified in resisting the words of those in category 1 who discount everything that ever happened at Mars Hill. Good did happen! But hear also James' words, and understand it is the good that Mark preached that now makes the bad that much worse, because the bad undermines and takes away from the good. These two things can not coexist.
James 3:10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Limp

Michael Card wrote a short book called The Walk, detailing his walk of discipleship with his mentor in college. It's one of my favorite little books, and I drew a lot of personal application from it. But I know if I ever wrote a similar book, it would be called The Limp. This was reinforced to me after I fell in my backyard this week and wiped off several layers of skin on my knee. My knee is starting to heal, but it is very sore, and I know I will likely have a permanent scar there.

I have other bigger permanent scars. I'm permanently affected by type 1 diabetes. I wear an insulin pump all day every day, a permanent reminder of a problem with my body that affects every moment of every day of my life. I have still bigger scars, marks on my heart and soul rather than my outward body from long term suffering over things I can't control. Many of us bear such scars. These scars and limps could be the consequence of your own sin. They could be the results of someone else's sins against you. It could be the death of a loved one or the betrayal by a loved one. It could be an illness that will not go away, a physical ailment that will affect you the rest of your days on earth. Whatever it is, it's not going away, and while you may be able to ignore it for periods of time, your awareness of it never fully fades. It's always there at some level.

Like Jacob, we walk forward in life with a permanent limp that reminds us over and over of a painful event. Our scars contribute to who we are. My scars and limps don't define me (either physically or spiritually), but they have become part of my identifying features. Brown hair, green eyes, scar on left knee. Compassionate, witty, constantly bracing herself against the next wave of pain. You and I are more than our scars, but we are not less than them. Jacob was still a father, a son, and a husband after his hip was put out of joint. But he was a father, a son, and a husband with a limp. He could kick and scream all he wanted that he didn't want to limp (which I have tried), but his limp was still there. Jacob had to figure out instead how to walk forward with that limp. That is the issue for any of us with emotional, spiritual, or physical scars and limps that reflect long term suffering.

As I was walking today, I noted that, given the pain and rawness of the wound on my knee, I was much more cautious with my steps. My physical limp slowed me down and made me pay attention to the cracks in the sidewalk. It made me more aware of the potential ways I could fall. Similarly, my emotional and spiritual scars make me pay attention to my own heart and to zealously guard it. I watch closely for the ways that Satan tempts me to react to my pain that will actually harm me more. I pray diligently that the Lord would keep me from the evil one and help me obey.

We probably easily recognize the drawbacks to walking with a limp. But for once I am thinking of the wisdom that can come from such caution. I may walk forward slowly and more tentatively, but that caution, submitted to God and seeking His face with each step, can be a very good thing, evidence that my suffering is being used to grow me into maturity.
2 Corinthians 12 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 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. 10 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.

*If you are walking with a limp in light of long-term suffering, I recommend Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian and Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller.