What do you think of when you see stained glass windows?
Do you see their beauty? Perhaps, like me, you marvel at the craftsmanship it took to create such masterpieces. I’ve sat in many churches looking at windows created across a few centuries, from the late 1800’s to windows refurbished in recent years. And I’ve wondered, how did this tradition begin? Imagine the precision, patience and talent it took to create these works of art before many of our modern technologies gave ease to the task!
There is one thing that sticks in my mind: how the glass is cut. Many stunning pieces of glass, with various shades are created for each window. But each piece of glass must be scored then broken along the cut line for the beautiful shaping to take place. Then the piece continues to be shaped, trimming a little at a time, the edges ground, the piece prepared to be soldered into place.
Ever feel like stained glass? That you’ve been broken and fractured, re-formed by the beautiful hand of God into a gorgeous masterpiece?
Maybe not today.
Maybe today you feel like a piece… broken and fractured… wondering how anything beautiful will ever come of this disaster.
Hindsight is 20-20, or so the saying goes, looking back we can see the hand of God at work turning painful, cutting moments of our lives into a beautiful masterpiece. When the whole picture comes into view, then… then we can see it was all worth it… worth all the pain, the hardships, struggles, the waiting…
But, what about when it doesn’t? What about those times that no matter what angle we look back, no matter how we squint… there isn’t a beautiful picture to behold? We are still just a broken piece of colored glass. There is no masterpiece.
And I come to a difficult question: is this enough for me?
I rail against it. I want to be angry and say no. I want to be determined and say yes. But, the thing is, this is a huge question. And one I struggle to answer.
[Here is one thing, I need to be fully clear, I’m not in your shoes. I don’t know your story, the prayers of your heart, the plans God has for you. Be careful to take my words and misapply their meaning. At this moment, this is where God has been speaking to me.]
Is this enough for me?
What does that even mean to ask: is this enough? *Deep breath here* Let me try to back up bit and ask a slightly different question. Do you ever find yourself living for what comes next? Could look like this: making it through the work week because of the light at the end of the tunnel weekend plans; enduring the drudgery of winter for the hope of the coming good weather; powering through the pain with the hopes that the doctor was right and healing was coming. If you’ve ever faced any of these circumstances, then you might know what I’m talking about. The longing for what is next, falling into the danger of seeking happiness in promise of something more.
But lately, God has been challenging me with the question of: What if that next, best thing never comes. Is this enough?
That is a heart-wrenchingly difficult question.
As I try to answer that question I find what I am really asking myself is: Is God enough? Is whatever God has planned, whatever God is doing enough for me?
Our Father God is a God of healing, miracles, goodness, mercy… and sometimes those come in ways that we struggle to see as good, perfect, kind, just, true… We see it in scripture as we read of the woman healed of her bleeding, the crippled made well enough to leap, the beloved brother who died but was brought back to life. In those stories we see the goodness of God working through the pain, heartache, and suffering to bring something beautiful.
There are times I’d rather forget scripture shows other examples that don’t have that Hallmark movie happy ending… and yet…God was still good and God was enough.
It hits me right here: God didn’t remove Paul’s struggle.
Think about that one for a moment. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says this, “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” There has been lots of speculation on Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” trust me, I’ve read a lot of explanations. But for what scripture is not clear on the specific nature of Paul’s suffering, I think he was pretty clear on the severity when he says this, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord…” Paul didn’t say ask, he didn’t say requested of the Lord… he said pleaded.
God didn’t say yes.
Really, he didn’t, God didn’t heal Paul of his thorn. God did not take away the source of torment.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul’s response? Scripture doesn’t say he threw a fit. Doesn’t say he endured knowing that some day God would make good of this current bad. No… Paul saw this bad as good.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
For the sake of Christ… Is it enough for me, whatever I am going through that God would be glorified? Is it enough for me if God’s answer is no (just as it would be if God’s answer were yes) that He would be glorified?
It gives me pause to see a deeper meaning in Jesus’ words:
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? Luke 9:23-25
When Jesus calls me to daily take up my cross and follow him… am I prepared for what that means? To deny myself, to lose my life for His sake… Is He enough for me? Enough for me when I feel like that broken piece of glass? Enough for me even when a masterpiece cannot be found in my life? Enough for me when I’m being shaped, my edges ground, soldered into place… for HIS glory?
Can I say as Paul, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Is it enough for me? Is He enough for me?