“I asked the Lord three times to take away my [thorn in the flesh]. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

My husband, George, leads a Bible study for the New Smyrna Beach chapter of Christian Surfers. Last night he presented an intriguing Bible study by first asking everyone to write down their goals for their life–up to ten goals.

Okay, your turn. Take a minute or two and write down your goals.

Once they were finished, George asked those who felt comfortable to share their goals, which they did. Goals among the adults centered on providing for their families, being a better spouse or parent, reaching goals at work or in their hobbies, being more faithful people of God, and getting to heaven. On the other hand, the goals of the groms (young surfers) included being happy, making good grades, going to college, getting a good job, and being closer to God.

Next, George asked, “What are your crosses?” Several weren’t sure what a “cross” was, so George explained that a cross is something that causes you to suffer–some life experience that you don’t want–either past or present.

Your turn. What are your crosses? Write them down.

Not so many from the group wanted to share what their crosses were, but a few did. Crosses listed included: selfishness, the duties of life, fears, getting old, the death of loved ones, wayward children, and physical disabilities.

The third and final question George asked was: How are your crosses helping you to reach your goals, allowing God to work in your life, bringing you closer to God, or equiping you to be a better servant of God? I have to admit that this question hit me between the eyes. Never before had I considered the possibility that my crosses were helping to make me into the better person I wanted to be and helping me to achieve even higher goals than I had set for myself.

Is it possible that your crosses are also helping you to achieve your goals?

For instance, my divorce and annulment in 1999-2000 still ranks as my heaviest cross. Yet, the fact that God helped me to raise my five precious children continues to strengthen my faith. When I felt most alone and afraid, God provided our daily bread through stable work for me and through the kindness of others. He provided emotional and spiritual support through extended family and through my church family. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, and I know that God provided that village for my children. Although I wish my kids had never been touched by the painful fallout of divorce, I am grateful that they have experienced healing, the grace of a caring stepfather and of our blended family, and the continued love and support of their close-knit extended family members. My goal to be a woman of faith experiencing God’s unique ways of loving and caring for my children is being met as I have carried this cross.

The diagnosis of severe osteoporosis was heavy cross to bear. In a moment, my self-concept changed from that of everyone’s Rock of Gibraltar to that of a fragile flower. Yet, I have discovered real strength–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual–as I have learned about how my body, mind, soul, and spirit must work together in a sort of “friendship” in order for me to find balance, peace, and health. My quest for a natural way to reverse osteoporosis and restore my bone density has led me to outstanding physicians, to a healthier way of eating, to a more peaceful schedule, and to writing for this website so that I can share with others what I have learned. My goals of becoming healthier and more fit, more emotionally stable, and of writing for publication have all been met as I have carried this cross.

A third cross has been this broken shoulder. Yes, the injury began with terrible pain that required morphine for any measure of relief. And yet, it has brought blessings, too. Because I can’t drive, I have had more time with my husband and children, as they’ve chauffeured me from place to place. I have experienced the love of my husband in a new way as he has tenderly taken care of me–bathing me and washing my hair when I could not, helping with housework that I cannot accomplish one-handed, and now doing the preliminary “passive” physical therapy exercises on my arm according to the doctor’s instructions. My daughters also helped to get me properly groomed and dressed, and they have done the bulk of the cooking. Because I could not even begin the indoor and outdoor remodeling projects I had planned this summer, I have had more time to visit with the people who are dear to me. I have had more time to pray and reflect, more time to read and write. I still got to finish my first college class in American Sign Language because of the kindness and understanding of the instructor, who allowed me to sign as best I could. And my son welcomed me warmly as his newest part-time employee, despite my injury, cheering me on as a “real trouper.” From the vantage point of experiencing love in my life and having time for the people and activities that matter most, the blessings of this cross have far outweighed the trials.

I understand better now what Paul meant about his “thorn in the flesh.” I, too, will boast of my weaknesses, for in my weakness the power of Christ’s love is made strong. In Him, my crosses are more than just the lumber of my life. Jesus, the Master Carpenter, builds them into the goal posts of victory!

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