For eight weeks I held my broken elbow close to my heart. I held it in front of my chest for the first few hours after my late-night injury, waiting for the snow to stop and the morning to start so I could get to the emergency room and have it examined. For weeks after my resultant surgery it was first a cloth sling and then a metal brace locked in one position that me no choice but to hold my arm in similar fashion. And yet it wasn't the physical restrictions that kept me from using my arm so much as it was the words I heard whispered in my ear repeatedly during that time, telling me that my ability to do the things I most enjoyed had been stolen away by one misstep on an icy parking lot.
I didn't just listen to those words; I believed them.
My mindset became one of inactivity in the physical realm. Repeatedly when my husband asked my to do even simple tasks my first reaction was to express my inability because of my injury. But God was having none of it. Before I could get the whole sentence out He would stop me in the middle of the second word. Thus my “I can't”s were trimmed to the “I can” response God knew to be true. Still disbelieving, I reluctantly gave each task a try and was usually surprised at the result...all because God didn't allow me to voice the lie that was waiting on my lips to defeat me.
How often have we likewise allowed an emotional injury of some kind prevent us from working in God's house? There are those who have suffered incredible blows in their walk through life, the magnitude of which has simply taken their spiritual breath away. But others of us have taken even little irritations and petty aggravations to heart and listened to the enemy's lies about lost love and purpose in the spiritual realm. We have allowed a chip on our shoulder to put us on the shelf, spiritually speaking, when God has the power to turn our situation around for our greater good and the good of the Kingdom, if given the chance. His ability is limited only by our belief in His desire to do so and His power inside of us.
Even once freed from external medical hardware, my arm remained bent in a frozen and locked position. When weeks of physical therapy failed to release it, it seemed to me to be time to be getting back to work, despite the fact that my arm remained locked in a ninety-degree angle. Surely I could just make do. But my doctor refused to sign off on that. He said there was no way I could function in my post with such a limited range of mobility. When additional x-rays revealed that a small piece of bone had grown up behind the elbow joint, he scheduled further surgery to clip the bone chip that was preventing the full extension of my arm.
The Great Physcician says the same thing when we are tempted to cut short our spiritual recovery times and simply get back to work in the Kingdom. He knows when there's further work to be done, however anxious we may be to avoid going deeper into issues that are painful. He writes His prescription in His Word: “let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing” (James 1:4 AMP). God simply doesn't want us to come up short in any area of our existence. He wants us to be all that He knows we can be.
But there is more to it than that. I had already been feeling strain in my shoulder as it struggled to take up the slack for my limited reach. And likewise the church struggles as a whole when some parts of the body have to function outside their skill sets to cover for those who are currently unwilling or unable to function in the gifts they were given. Every piece of the puzzle is necessary, every member of the body has a place and a part to play if the church is to minister effectively. Simply put, you have a job to do, and nobody else was given the exact tools to accomplish it but you. The Kingdom of God needs you to be fully operational in the tasks you were assigned.
And so God works with our words, as He did with mine. A huge part of our problem is simply unbelief in His ability to overcome our obstacles. He stops us short in our “I can't”s by replacing them with His “But I can!” And when our I-won't-believe-it-till-I-see-it attitude gets in the way of our own recovery, He offers us the Cross as His ultimate proof.
We're not the first to struggle with issues of unbelief. Perhaps Jesus had doubting Thomas touch His scars so we too would believe He has the power to work through ours.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me.”
(Philippians 4:13 NKJV)