Vincent van Gogh painted the infamous ‘Starry, Starry Night’ from his asylum room and possibly a broken mind. Martin Luther King feared for his life but spoke up and led the Civil Rights movement anyway. The Wright brothers successfully designed and flew the first aircraft despite the fact that their own father thought flying should be reserved for the angels. Nelson Mandela started out as a lawyer-activist against apartheid, he was released from a 27 year term of imprisonment and completed the long walk to freedom by becoming South Africa’s very first black president.
All of these figures in history had some deep passion, a very large dream, a sincere conviction that life should be different. Another writer wrote, ‘Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.’ Many of these men and women were the prophets to their people that spoke of worlds that did not yet exist at the time. But all of these heroes experienced some form of constraint in their own personal journey. A constraint is a restriction, limitation or inhibition. Think of Joseph who had a big dream to rule but was sold into slavery by his brothers. Paul had a call to preach the gospel but ended up in prison. Hannah desired a child but couldn’t get pregnant. We don’t understand why God’s people would have to go through such hardship. We cannot fathom the method to this madness.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (MSG) Paul lets us in on a secret – ‘Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down, what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, “My grace is enough, it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.’
Often when we experience constraints, our first instinct is to give up or keep silent. Martin Luther King offers some sobering wisdom: ‘Our lives begin to end the day when we become silent on the things that matter.’ In this process God is preparing the heart of the messenger. A messenger often becomes the message. He demonstrates the message with his own life. In the meantime God is also preparing the audience to be ready for this solution.
What if you could see the gift hidden in your perceived handicap?
What if you could discern the strategic opportunity in your area of struggle?
What if God wants to give you the solution that will allow others to walk in freedom?
Paul wrote the biggest part of the Bible while in prison. What if Paul kept silent? Joseph was strategically prepared to be a solution to his family’s problem and the entire Egypt. What if Joseph gave up?
An old Chinese proverb says: ‘The tongue can paint what the eyes can’t see.’
Your constraints are not in vain. In you, God is preparing a world yet to be seen. You are the solution to your community’s pain. Do not be silent!