It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)
I have a chronic condition that causes pain and fatigue. I have the tools to manage the pain, but the fatigue is much more elusive. Recently when my symptoms began to intensify, I returned to my doctor to request something to help with the fatigue. The medication we finally settled on actually helps both my pain and my fatigue to the point that I begin to feel almost normal again. But unfortunately it is just a treatment and not a cure; therefore, I still have flare-ups when it does not seem to be helping at all.
This is very disappointing. It becomes tempting to despair and to doubt. If God really IS for me, why is this happening? I suspect at one time or another many of you reading this have felt exactly the same way. But what, really, are we to do?
I am reminded of what Peter said to Jesus in John Chapter 6. Many of the disciples turned back when Jesus began to speak of partaking of His flesh and drinking His blood. They did not understand what He meant, just as when He spoke in parables many did not understand. Paul said, “The cross of Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing.” Unsaved people simply cannot understand; it seems like madness to them.
Imagine yourself on the other side of the cross, the other side of your conversion, trying to understand someone speaking of eating their flesh and drinking their blood. You would not understand the symbolism and would just think this person was talking foolishness. “Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them . . .’ From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.'” (John 6:53-56,66-69)
Although things aren’t going the way I had hoped and prayed for, where else can I go? He has the words of eternal life — hope in this life and hope in the next. So when I read this part of 1 Corinthians 13 and prepared to write about it I saw it in a different light and from a different angle than I had before. This chapter is all about instructing us on how to love, but mostly we think about how to love other people. Today I saw it as how to love God. Although my circumstances might not be what I would like, I LOVE God, and Paul stressed that love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor 13:7). Jesus said, “If you love me, you will do what I say.” (John 14:15)
Also, if God has allowed suffering, in whatever form He chooses because He IS the Potter and I am the clay, then my duty is to always protect God’s reputation by not reneging on what I say I believe He has done for me. I must always trust that God has a purpose and a plan in ALL things, always hope in Him to do what I cannot, and always persevere in whatever circumstance I find myself.
And just think, in inspiring this devotional, which I hope He might use to encourage some, He has already shown purpose in this trial. Purpose, something He can use for His glory, will never fail to justify suffering – not only in the life and death of the Lord Jesus, but in my life and yours as well.
Yours in love and in Christ,
(To access the entire “Lessons in Love From 1 Corinthians 13” mini-series, please click here.)