Recently I visited Rick, a fellow I’ve known from his youth, now 40 years old. Humanly speaking he is in bad shape, and has been for years. Having severe genetic diabetes (even though he is not at all overweight), he has had parts of both legs amputated, first below the knees, then above them, as well as some fingers; his kidneys have failed so he is on dialysis 3 times a week; his arms are one mass of scars from infections from plastic inserts to deal with dialysis; he has continual reflux and scaring on his esophagus, partly from severe vomiting when he was poisoned by infections in his legs; in addition, he has experienced heart attacks and insulin attacks and could die at any time.
My intent in visiting him was to give him some encouragement and perspective. How wrong I was! I came away so encouraged! Sitting there in his wheelchair, Rick was cheerful, upbeat and positive. He said that he is still alive because God has a purpose for his life. He believes that his job is to pray, so he intercedes about everything: what he sees on the news, what he hears from others, the people he has met in his medical world.
He may be handicapped humanly speaking, but he is focused spiritually on what God has for him. He has allowed these difficulties to drive him into the arms of Jesus, not into the swamp of despair and bitterness. I’m sure that he has had his times of discouragement and self-pity, but he has moved out of them into the light of God’s continual presence.
I thought to myself, “If I were in Rick’s place, would I think positively like that?” The answer is, humanly speaking, “No!” But if, like Rick, any one of us took up the grace of God and let these difficulties drive us into the Word and into a deeper dependence on God, we, too, could be joyfully useful in His hand.
Hebrews 12:15 says, “Take heed lest any man fail of the grace of God [meaning we fail to take up and use the grace that God offers], lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you and many thereby be defiled.”
Rick is a living example of obeying this verse and principle. He takes up the grace of God every day and rejects the temptation of self-pity and selfish thinking, instead praising God in and for all. Therefore, he is not bitter, and does not spread the poison of discontent to others; instead he is sweet, bringing help and joy to all he meets. May we who have much easier lives, be and do the same.