As a kid, I was sure my Magic 8 Ball tended toward negative predictions. I would shake it repeatedly until I got answers I wanted. As a mature Christian burdened with chronic pain for twenty years, I thought I had firmly rested my hopes on a foundation of faith, not fortune-telling. But when my much-loved cat recently suffered life-threatening wounds, a curtain opened on a scene of me holding an 8 Ball before God, shaking it vigorously when I found His will unsettling.
When my young daughter and I discovered Tigger as a tiny kitten rummaging in our compost, a neck wound indicated an attack by a bird of prey. I marveled at Tigger’s tenacity while we completed vet visits. At a time when I struggled to navigate acceptance and management of my developing illness and felt down for the count, the fast bond I built with that tiny feline fighter fanned the embers of my faith with sparks of hope.
For fifteen years, Tigger sat in my lap or at my feet while I researched and discovered means to lessen my chronic symptoms. His earnest pleas for food encouraged me to move my stiffening joints and muscles, and he met me at the foot of my bed when I needed rest. Though fatigue robbed me of previous abilities, Tigger valued me for my existence alone, and his faithfulness reminded me of God’s ever-present companionship and provision. I imagined Tigger rejoicing with me in the Lord’s will, as long as my health predictions improved.
When the vet diagnosed an assault on our now-senior kitty by an animal that “grabbed him and shook him,” my heart twisted out of shape for Tigger, and I related to his predicament. After a year of falling into a spiral of relapsing sickness, I questioned why the same lightning flash of ill health struck me twice. Then Tigger met his second strike possibly from a bird of prey, this time with far more serious effects. I began to predict the future for both Tigger and myself, and my Magic 8 Ball seemed to be stuck on “Outlook not so good.”
Are you able to rest in God’s will when it doesn’t match your desires?
Reeling from the vet’s expectation that Tigger might not survive, I wondered how I would endure my health collapse without my furry pal. I prayerfully considered God’s response after the apostle Paul asked a third time for healing:
“My grace is sufficient for you . . . .” 2 Corinthians 12:9a (ESV)
I’ve danced around that assurance before, with head but not heart knowledge, sharing it with others whose health took a decided downturn. But I wanted my healing story to be more like Job’s miraculous restoration. Under the stress of relapse, I grieved that my portion might be “only grace.”
Knowing I needed to see the sufficiency of His grace played out before my eyes, God mercifully wove His response to my fretting through the circumstances of Tigger’s battle for life. I can joyfully attest that “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
The myriad reasons God’s grace suffices fill a weighty book—the Book. But God responded to Paul with a specific reason we can hold onto: “. . . for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b
Tearfully watching Tigger respond with wide trusting eyes and purring while my husband treated his infected wounds, I realized why Tigger gratefully received that tending: in our cat’s weakness, he was confident in the strength and care of his master. Believing that my husband’s hands and God’s cared for Tigger, I recognized my blessing of support from both as I walk life’s complicated trails.
A week later, the vet’s dancing eyes met my grateful ones as she proclaimed over Tigger, “He’s definitely used one of his nine lives!” Reflecting on Tigger’s near-death experience, I could see God’s grace always in action—in excellent vet care, supportive prayers from friends, and Tigger’s revived will to live. God then opened my heart to a soothing truth: regarding the unfolding of my trials, I and my Magic 8 Ball could only authentically say, “Cannot predict now.”
Isn’t that one essence of God’s response to the anxious questioning Paul briefly admits and the long form in Job’s account of suffering? God seems to assure, “You don’t know your future. You can trust me during your trials.” Like Job, I had to admit that with all my brooding over contingencies, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Job 42:3
Dropping my Magic 8 Ball in astonishment, I determined to take a better seat for watching God work during trials, to spend less time predicting outcomes from the balcony and more time witnessing His sufficient grace from the front row. In my newfound eagerness to give up fortune-telling and lean into that grace, I sensed Holy Spirit telling me, in 8 Ball terms, “You may rely on it.”
Is a future possibility prompting you to shake a Magic 8 Ball? Can you picture God watching with compassion as He holds your life, beginning to end, in His loving hands, ready to lead you to rest in His grace? Resting in the power of our almighty God certainly trumps agonizing worry.
Paul concludes 2 Corinthians 12:9, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
I hope you’ll drop your not-so-magic ball and join me in better witnessing God’s grace in our trials, as we exchange anxiety based on our limitations, for peace and even joy rooted in the Lord’s strength. Will God give us reason to rejoice in our weaknesses? In words from my discarded 8 Ball, “It is certain.”
Jill Butler Wilson began her career as a freelance copyeditor in 1991, married in 1993, met with the joy of motherhood and the challenge of chronic illness in 1998, and graduated her daughter from homeschool in 2016. God chose 2018 to call Jill to a deeper relationship with him through writing devotionals glorifying the present and eternal hope he offers to all who follow Jesus, and she found encouragement and voice through the Flourish Writers Conference and Power of Story course. When not editing, writing, or dreaming about tiny living with her husband, Jill uses knitting needles and a ball of yarn to relax and organize her thoughts.