Once upon time I had a weird tropical illness known as Dengue Fever.
I could explain what it is, how it went down, and all that business, but the important information is that I was down and out for a good three months. First, it was very scary. Then, it was painful. Mostly, it was exhausting.
Have you ever had an ailment, an illness, even a heartbreak that left you weak, weary, and in need of help?
Paul has been there. Read Galatians 4:12-15 to find out more:
Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.
Wow. That’s commitment.
We don’t know what Paul’s ailment was, and I think that is rather purposeful. God puts things in Scripture for a purpose, but He also leaves them out for just as much purpose, I believe.
Some of you have been there. Some of you are there every day with chronic pain, a current crisis, or an ongoing difficult relationship – an ailment is sometimes visible, and sometimes hidden way deep, underneath the layers of life, that only the individual can see.
I want to assure you that God sees. God knows.
In the context of Galatians 4, Paul uses the existence of his ailment and the prior relationship he had with the Galatians to remind them of who he is and the truth he speaks in, the gravity of the relationship that binds them together. Why should the Galatians believe Paul’s message of freedom over the Judaizers? In the early chapters of Galatians, Paul speaks to his authority given by God to proclaim truth, and here Paul speaks to the relationship of the Body of Christ that holds a certain weight in sharing the truth.
There is freedom in relationships that can share truth, isn’t there? Praise the Lord for the Body of Christ.
However, there is another layer of freedom here that I don’t want to miss:
We don’t have to struggle alone.
Yes, we live in this Body of Christ, the church on earth, and speak truth to each other, hear the truth of Christ’s sacrifice for us together, but we also struggle together.
Everyone has a place – weak, strong, in poverty and in wealth, in joy and in sorrow.
When I was sick, I couldn’t do anything, and so others did it for me. People took care of my kids, fed my husband, sat and read me magazines, prayed for me, and gave me hope. These may have seemed like small kindnesses, but they spoke great mercy into my life.
Paul honors what the Galatians have done for him, what kindness they have shown him –
and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me… (Galatians 4:14)
…if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. (Galatians 4:15)
It’s graphic and beautiful.
We so often think of the challenges of relationship, the dynamics of relationship that burden us in this imperfect life together. Here, Paul honors the freedom of giving our lives to one another, through the mercy found in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4:13-16 speaks about God’s grace and mercy, and in that freedom, extending that grace out through our relationship with one another:
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
God works freedom on the cross once and for all. God proclaims freedom to each of us day by day, in one another, through His Spirit alive and well in us.
We do not struggle alone. There is no scorn here. No shame, no “less than” in our weakness.
When we are weak, then He is strong.
This is not the way of the world, so we may need to proclaim it to one another daily, hourly, moment by moment –
“No struggling alone.”
“God is with us. Christ is with us.”
When a brother or sister feels the yoke of aloneness, we reach in and help them lift it off in the name of Christ.
In it together. All of it.
What ailments have you had in this life? What needs did you have and how did God help meet them?
When have you felt alone in the struggles of life?
When have you seen God work through the Body to reach more and more people through someone’s ailment or struggle?