I am still pondering Paul’s words to the Colossians, which we have studied in our worship services over the past two weeks. My reflection continues to center on Paul’s prayer and the fact that he did not ask God to provide relief for his brothers and sisters in the church, or change their circumstances and their setting. Instead, he prayed that the church might receive “knowledge of God’s will” along with “spiritual wisdom and understanding.” He asked God that the church might be “strengthened with all power” and blessed with “endurance and joyful patience.” I have been struck by the difference between Paul’s prayers and the prayers I tend to offer for myself, for my church, for my children, and for those around me. With more frequency than I would care to admit, I find myself petitioning God to change a situation, to remove an obstacle, or to clear a path leading toward easy and certain progress. Rarely do I find myself asking that the change be in my own thinking, or my perception of the world around me, let alone a request of God for the strength and patience to simply endure the challenges before me in a faithful manner.
I just got home from my six-week checkup with the doctor who is working to repair the foot I so thoroughly splintered. The healing process is on track and we have set the date for one final surgery to remove the hardware that has been aiding the process. This has been a new experience, as I have been fortunate to generally “bounce” rather than “break” when tossed off a horse or a motorcycle. But now, some new limitations have forced changes in my day-to-day routine and have demanded an approach to life contrary my usual “head-first” methodology. I have been obligated to sit (for forty-three days now), with another month and a half yet to come. I am powerless to speed the healing process or alter the circumstances. My response can only be a prayer for spiritual wisdom, endurance and patience… lots of patience.
Has our modern culture, where speed and convenience dominate, weakened our ability to work our way through the inevitable challenges we are certain to encounter in life? Have we been so conditioned to go around hard patches rather than methodically working our way forward with the sure and certain knowledge that the struggle itself has benefit? Paul’s prayer to the Colossians reminds us that God remains at our side in even the most challenging of situations. He is ready and able to provide the resources necessary to see us through, but more importantly, to see us mature as fully committed followers of Jesus Christ. May Paul’s prayer extend to us as well, and may our own prayers reflect what we have learned. Lives of fruitful and faithful abundance will be the result.