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March 16, 2019

I’m pretty sure every parent has at one time or another said (and maybe even shouted), “THAT’S ENOUGH!”

Lots of people terminate a job or a relationship with the words either in their mind or on their lips (or both), “Enough’s enough, and I’ve had enough of this.”

God  said it when He sent down a rain of fire and brimstone to destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah .  And when Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the tablets of stone to find Israel in a frenzy of orgy and drunkenness, enough was enough.  According to the Exodus record, only Moses’ pleading for Israel kept God from wiping them out and starting over.

Samuel said it to Saul when Saul was making excuses about not having killed all the livestock of the Amalekites, when God had made it clear they were to annihilate every living thing in the territory.  God rejected Saul as Israel’s king because of this, and from that time on Samuel and Saul were never on good terms.  It’s worth reading.  It starts in 1 Samuel 15, in the Old Testament.

I have friends who didn’t say “enough” soon enough.  They tell me they couldn’t.   Not to themselves at the buffet.  Not to a habit that became an addiction.  If some is good, they thought, more is better.  Eventually, there was never enough.

We live in a country with a culture that has no sense of “enough.”  Our National Debt is higher than it’s ever been.  So high that we have to trivialize the number trillion to not be panicked about it.  Individually and as families, we’ve racked up more consumer debt than at any time in the history of the world.  Families are stretched so tight that if there’s one sizable emergency, they’ll be belly up.  But we drive great cars and live in great houses with fabulous TVs and awesome smartphones.  Cars that we’re tired of in 2 years or so, and houses that aren’t large enough or laid out well enough or don’t have enough possibilities to keep us happy.  And not long after we acquire all these things, we begin to realize that we don’t own them, they own us.

We struggle with “enough.”

Even the Apostle Paul struggled a little with “enough.”  Not in the same way most of us struggle with it, though.  Here’s what he wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 12 in the New Testament. in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Scholars have guessed at and conjectured what this thorn in the flesh was, but there’s no way to know for sure what it was.  Whatever it was, it got in Paul’s way all the time.  So much so that he asked God three times to take it away.  Not just asked.  He pleaded.  There’s an intensity implied in that word.  Think your kids asking to go to Six Flags with their friends.

God’s reply seems a little off-putting to me.  “Nah.  You’re good.  You just need to lean on me.  We’ll get through this.”  Well, that’s not really what He said.  “My grace is sufficient for you.,”  God’s grace would be enough.

If I had been Paul, I would have gone into turbo drive with reasons this doesn’t make sense.  I’ve got dozens of compelling arguments about how the thorns in my flesh keep me from being as useful to God than if they were gone.  And that doesn’t even include the dozens more reasons I would be more personally fulfilled without having to constantly figure out how to work around them, apologize for them, suffer through them.

But here’s what Paul said about them.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This is probably why he was an Apostle and I’m not.  I don’t have the maturity or fortitude to respond to my thorns like this.

So why would I talk about “enough” in a blog for Marriage and Family?  For only one reason.  Because if you’re married or in a family, you will have thorns in your flesh.  Not “you may.”  You WILL.  It’s part of the human condition.  Your thorns might not be like mine, and mine are probably not like Paul’s, but we’re all going to have thorns.  All of us will have things that hold us back.  Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

I’m prone to whine and complain about them.  I’ve written about my propensity to think and act like a victim.  (Here you go if you missed that one:  Some of you know what I’m talking about.

In all of our lives, when life runs us out onto the bloody, ragged edge (yes, I love hyperbola), God is saying to us the same thing He said to Paul.  “My grace is enough for you.”  I paraphrase the second part of what God told Paul: Your weakness takes you to a place where only my power can make it work.”

If God ever asked for my advice, I’d tell Him to rework this in a script that’s easier for me to run with.  Like, “OK, I know this is really terrible.  I’ll take care of it.  Here you go.  Just what you asked for.”

He’s not asking for my advice, though.  And if He did, He would categorically reject this script.  Not because He’s just a meanie up in heaven who likes to see his worm-like creatures squirm under the load of stuff He allows and causes in our lives.  That’s not Who He is.  He said what He said to Paul (and us) because He’s a Perfect Father Who knows that growing our character and core is more important than our comfort.  Just like there are times you know that giving your kids what they beg you for won’t be good for them, even when they present you with air-tight cases for it.  Because you can project the outcomes much farther down the road then they can.

In your marriage and in your family you will routinely hit spots you don’t like and can’t seem to change – times when only God’s grace can give you what you need to move through it to the other side, where apparently sanity awaits.

I have two challenges with this.  First, choose to give God access to everything in your heart and mind, so He can turn your weakness into an opportunity for His power.  That’s not easy to do.  That’s why it’s a challenge.

Second, in partnership with God’s Spirit in you, choose to respond to your thorn the way Paul did.  …I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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