He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”By Ben Palpant
Editor’s Note: As we reflect on the verse above I want to return to an excerpt we published as part of our Summer Reading Series. This transparent look at his faith — during intense suffering — serves as both encouragement and great challenge. Ben Palpant’s transparency reveals both the profound pain of weakness and the remarkable sufficiency of God’s grace in it.
From the author’s website: “In his mid-thirties, Ben Palpant was suddenly reduced to an infant in a matter of a few short weeks–learning again to read and walk and feed himself. With no clear diagnosis, he was left alone with his questions: ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Why is this happening to me?’”
No child in the history of mankind, when asked what he would like to do when he grows up, has ever responded, “I want to suffer.” I, for one, did not. — Ben Palpant
C.S. Lewis called pain God’s megaphone. John Piper has called pain God’s pedagogy. “God, I am listening. Teach me. Speak into this bewilderment.”
After my meltdown in the office, everyone important to me encouraged me to stay home. My wife, father, mother, boss, and friends seemed to conspire against my ambitions. Soon my head began bobbing involuntarily and tremors gradually took over my torso. And then my arms and even my legs shook. My hands curled in on themselves and my tongue thickened in my mouth. I would sit like that for hours at a time.
My stability dissolved under the strain of suffering. In my suffering, I forgot that pain has a context. It is framed by the Master Storyteller. I am imagined: before I kicked against my mother’s womb, before the nurse pricked my heel and I cried out, before I threw a snowball and squealed with delight, God imagined all of it.
He imagined the death of grubs and the death of the chicks that ate them. Such pain is part of his story. Thomas Merton suggested that the mystery of God eclipses our suffering.
Pain is no case against God. No matter the cause. No matter the degree. Suffering does not call into question the existence of a good God; rather, it calls into question our lives. — Ben Palpant
He knows the falling of a sparrow and he knew the collapse of a mind. God does not look at our suffering from afar. It is an intimate event to him. He is the author of every detail, speaking the suffering as it occurs.