Wednesday Writings

Why We Fall: Chronic Illness, Batman, and 2 Corinthians, Part 3

Last week we looked at five more reasons for our falls as believers (and humans) and how God can use our moments of discouragement for our good, others’ good, and ultimately His glory.

Today we finish that list with one more purpose to our falls, then we’ll look at some practical tips for getting back on our feet.

“Why Do We Fall?”

8. To see the bigger picture

Falling has a way of making us take a step back and get a good look at things: what’s important and what’s not important, who we are, and how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

Paul makes no bones about this grand scheme:

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 

II Corinthians 4:1

 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 

II Corinthians 5:18-20

What Paul is saying, to the broken believers of the Corinthian church and to us today, is that it’s not about us. It’s about God, it’s about the gospel, it’s about the ministry of the gospel–whether or not we’re in full-time, vocational ministry. We don’t have to be pastors, pastors’ wives, missionaries, or missionaries’ wives to occupy ourselves in the ministry of the gospel.

In fact, who was the audience of Paul’s letter? Was he writing to missionaries, pastors, evangelists, and other full-time ministers? He was writing to the church. The whole church. Everyone in the church. Doctors, lawyers, mothers, teachers, babysitters, carpenters, hairdressers, you name it.

He wasn’t writing exclusively to healthy people either. Who wants to bet that in the Corinthian congregation were men and women with handicaps, health issues, disabilities, or injuries? Paul was writing to the healthy and the unhealthy. The physically strong and the physically weak. Those who could “do” much and those who could “do” little.

It doesn’t matter.

Friends, let me say that again. It doesn’t matter what your profession is or what your health looks like; you are still called–always, first and foremost–to the ministry of the gospel. Woven into your profession. Carried out in little ways. Fulfilled with what capacity you have.

No believer is given a free pass from living and sharing the gospel.

Because it all comes back to Christ. He is the big picture, the end goal, the beginning and end of all things (Ro. 11:36, Col. 1:17).

As Warren Wiersbe writes in his commentary,

Not only must we focus on the treasure and not on the vessel, but we must also focus on the Master and not on the servant. If we suffer, it is for Jesus’ sake. If we die to self, it is so that the life of Christ might be revealed in us. If we go through trials, it is so that Christ might be glorified. And all of this is for the sake of others. As we serve Christ, death works in us–but life works in those to whom we minister.

The Bible Exposition Commentary, p. 643

In other words, if we suffer a little bit on the way to this glorious destination, as we carry out this beautiful mission, what of it?

I’m reminded of the illustration Pastor Israel gave in his sermon on the life of Joseph: when a lowly soldier falls and twists his ankle in the battlefield, he doesn’t ask for the battle to stop, because he’s not the main character. The battle isn’t about him. He’s just one part (a very small part) of the bigger picture.

In the same way, when we fall, we’re reminded that we’re just a part (a very small part) of the bigger picture of God’s beautiful, amazing, incomprehensible plan.

It’s easy for us to fall into the black hole of believing that life and the universe revolve around us (hence, it’s the end of the world when we fall, meet hardship, or get uncomfortable, and we want Out as soon as possible). But this passage gives the strong reminder we need as much as the Corinthian believers: it’s not about us.

So while we ultimately take a page out of God’s perfect Book, we can also take a page out of Batman’s book: Why do we fall? So we can learn to get back up. Because the Christian life is not a life of giving up but a life of getting up and going on, fueled by Christ and drawn by Christ and conquering in Christ.

Because the Christian life is a life of hope. Always. In everything.

Because the Christian life is a life of victory. As Warren Wiersbe reminds us,

We do not fight for victory; we fight from victory.

The Bible Exposition Commentary, p. 636

And it’s because this victory has already been won by Jesus Christ Himself that we, His people, can get back on our feet and keep going.

Getting Back Up

What if you’ve already fallen? Maybe you’re currently in that dark place of discouragement and struggling to find your way out.

If that’s you, or if you’d like to prepare some strategies for the next time you stumble, here are some practical tips for getting back up after a fall:

1. Pray

Even if you don’t have words, run to your Father’s arms. He’s waiting to listen to you, comfort you, answer you, and strengthen you.

Ask Him for help. Ask Him for strength, for patience, for wisdom, for whatever you need. He delights in answering His children’s prayers and wants to pick you up. But sometimes we have to ask first.

And often this intentional choice to turn our hearts and minds toward God, in worship or supplication or both, is sufficient to raise us out of the miry clay.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

I Peter 5:7

When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood . . .

Psalm 73:16-17

See Chris Anderson’s modern hymn “I Run to Christ” and Ben Everson’s song “I’ll Pray Again.”

2. Be in the Word

Scripture is a balm to the soul, no matter the nature, type, or extent of the hurt. Review your regular Bible reading. Spend extra time in study (whether on a theme that relates to your fall or on any theme you want). Write out a list of relevant verses you can keep on hand for times like this.

Saturate your mind with God’s words. You can never get too much of the Bible–every verse is a lifeline of truth out of discouragement and a line of defense against Satan’s attacks.

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1

And take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:17

Those who fear You will be glad when they see me,
Because I have hoped in Your word. . . .
Let the proud be ashamed,
For they treated me wrongfully with falsehood;
But I will meditate on Your precepts.

Psalm 119:74, 78

3. Ask for help

Sometimes we can’t get back up by ourselves. Is there a friend you can ask for prayer, or a mentor you can ask for an encouraging reminder, or a family member or neighbor you can ask for some practical aid?

God never meant us to live the Christian life alone, so don’t make your hard moments harder by isolating yourself. Reach out and take advantage of the network God has provided to support you in your journey.

(If you’re afraid of being a burden, remember that the family of God is called to bear each other’s burdens [Gal. 6:2] and that your need may be the perfect opportunity for someone to experience the joy of blessing you.)

Two are better than one . . .
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

4. Serve someone else

One of the best practical antidotes to discouragement and its related struggles is serving someone else. We often either fall into discouragement or slide deeper into darkness the longer we focus on ourselves, so find ways to shift your focus from yourself onto someone else in need.

This ministry can be as simple as sending a text or sharing a verse or as involved as cooking a meal or giving a ride. Whatever you’re capable of, find a way to minister to someone else. Remember that nothing is too small to brighten someone’s day (a gift that will, in turn, lighten your heart too).

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:4

5. Get busy

Have you heard the old adage “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”? (Or is it “idle mind”?) Either way, it’s far too true–when we’re not actively involved physically or mentally, we’re sitting ducks for Satan’s fiery darts, and the wiles of our own hearts.

Find some practical, doable ways you can distract yourself–not to avoid addressing the problem but to look beyond the problem to the rest of life that needs to be lived. What projects, hobbies, ministries, or causes can you involve yourself in that will occupy your mind or your hands (or both)?

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

I Corinthians 15:58

6. Give yourself time

Honestly, sometimes it simply takes time to get back on your feet after a fall or a blow. And that’s okay. Healing, recovery, and moving on are often a process that cannot (and should not) be rushed. Invite Jesus into this process with you and give Him the time He needs to gently and thoroughly restore your soul (Ps. 23:3).

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

7. Don’t compare

Your journey is not like everyone else’s. In fact, it’s not like anyone else’s. Similarly, your process of getting back on your feet may not–and often will not–look like anyone else’s either.

And that’s okay too. Don’t deepen your discouragement by comparing your fall or your recovery process to another’s. Let God work in your heart, ministering specifically to your needs, the way that He works in others’ hearts in response to their specific needs.

When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!

Psalm 142:3, ESV

How can you take encouragement from the reasons for our falls? Have you seen God work for good from a fall in your life? What steps can you take to help yourself or someone else during a fall?

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