Anyone who suffers with chronic mental or physical illness will understand this quote by Eugene H. Peterson, “Suffering attracts fixers like roadkill attracts vultures.” When someone we care about suffers, we want to help. So we circle, ever ready to offer advice. The thing is, God doesn’t ask us to fix sufferers but to direct them to the boundless grace and strength He gives in time of need.
When fixers hover
After years of perplexing medical issues, I was recently diagnosed with Lupus. If you’re not familiar with this autoimmune disease, it causes widespread inflammation and tissue damage throughout the body. I’m trusting God to walk me through to the other side of this illness, but meanwhile, there are days when I struggle. And there are days when fixers hover.
“My aunt was cured by a holistic healer.”
“Have you tried acupuncture?”
“Here’s a list of supplements I know will help.”
“You just need to cheer up!”
I’m not suggesting that we eliminate kindness and care. When simple tasks become overwhelming, a kind word, a helping hand, or a prayer of agreement is a gift from heaven. But in our effort to rid our friends and loved ones of pain, we’re often better at dispensing advice than giving practical help.
Paul plead with the Lord to take away His “thorn in the flesh” but Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9*).
We don’t know what Paul’s thorn was, but whatever it was, Jesus’ grace and power was greater still.
We learn in the howling wilderness
When we give our hearts to Christ we may mistakenly expect an easy-peasy-breezy life. But we’re disciples, not tourists. We only come to know Him in a deeper way as He walks with us through the rocky patches. When we hurt, His tender care envelopes us. When our strength crumbles, His power stands tall. The Scottish preacher, Robert Murray M’Cheyne described it this way, “You will never find Jesus so precious as when the world is one vast howling wilderness. Then He is like a rose blooming in the midst of the desolation, a rock rising above the storm.”
I never understood how often I’ve tried to be the fixer until I became the “fixee.” To all of us fixers, perhaps we should pray before offering advice. The Lord may have our friend or loved one in the howling wilderness for a reason. If we want to aid a suffering friend, one act of kindness provides a better balm than 100 words of advice.
And to all of us who suffer, we can take solace knowing that God doesn’t waste a single shred of our pain. Our trials teach us something about our Savior we’re unlikely to learn when life is all sunshine and butterflies. Only in trials do we gain the sweet assurance – the 100%, iron-clad, unwavering certainty that Jesus is enough – His grace IS sufficient.
You answered me when I called to you; with your strength you strengthened me.
*Amplified Bible Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved www.lockman.org
**Good News Translation® (Today’s English Version, Second Edition) © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.