2 Corinthians 11:24-26a – Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. (NIV)
During the winter, Agnes, our goat, suffered a ligament injury to one of her hind legs, which resulted in her being fitted with a solid brace. The brace was meant to hold the damaged area in place, allowing it to heal and to give Agnes extra support so as to be able to walk on the injured leg. Unfortunately, she would not put her foot on the ground for fear of pain. After a month, we removed the solid brace and put on a soft brace, but still she would not use the leg, even though we could see that the injury had healed. Agnes was now crippled by the thought of pain. Finally, we took the soft brace off and just left her to see what she would do. Gradually, very gingerly, she began to try using the now almost-useless leg. Day by day, as she realized that she could use the leg without pain, she became more confident. Today, she still walks with a limp, but with the aid of the soft brace, she is once again vibrant and active.
Agnes's ordeal and reaction to her injury brought to mind the sufferings of the apostle Paul who endured so much for the Lord. Beatings, rejection, danger, and stoning were not uncommon for this Christian soldier, yet Paul just kept going. I imagine that there must have been many a day when he hobbled or limped along on his journey. There must have been times when he suffered excruciating pain, and yet, amidst it all, he never gave up. Paul did not allow himself or his ministry to be crippled by the thought of pain. He did not tuck himself away in a corner and vow that because he had been hurt by others, he would never again place himself in such a position of serving the Lord. Indeed, he is a marvel of courage, strength, and perseverance. He is an example to all of us when it comes to overcoming not only the pain and injuries that we, too, may suffer in this world, but also and especially the crippling fear that such suffering can generate. Fear can immobilize us and keep us from reaching out to others. It can keep us from active service within our community, our church, and even within our own homes. Injuries heal, even though scars may be left, but fear is the culprit that has the power to rob of us of a full and vibrant life in Christ.
Yet, God has said through His Word:
1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (NIV)
Paul understood this. He realized that any suffering that he was called upon to endure was doable in light of God's perfect love for Him. For amidst that love, Paul knew that he would also receive the strength, courage, and perseverance necessary to keep going for the Lord, even if it meant limping along from time to time.
How about you? Have you been crippled by the fear of pain? Has a fear robbed you of a full and vibrant life? If so, I would encourage you to choose today to place your trust in God's perfect love and provision for you, and by faith, to take your first tentative step back toward the vibrant, fulfilling life that God has planned for you.
Prayer: Father God, fear is such a powerful enemy, and yet Your love is even more powerful. Strengthen and encourage us to place our trust constantly in Your perfect love and provision, that we may each lead full and vibrant lives in Christ Jesus, in whose name, we pray. Amen.
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