Jason made his way out the back doors of the building quickly before hopping in his car and heading home. On the way he suddenly broke down in tears. He stopped the car, jumped out onto the side of the road, and declared, “I don’t have any excuses anymore. I want my life to matter. I want to finish strong.” Then, right there on the side of the road looking out into the dark night, Jason committed his life to Jesus.
I’ve spoken at numerous venues over the past few months, including the group Jason was leaving. Each time after sharing my story, I can’t help wondering what the take away was for the group that I spoke to. Considering “You’re an inspiration!” is something I often hear from strangers who know nothing about me aside from the fact that they see a dude in a wheelchair smiling, this particular sentiment doesn’t necessarily give me much insight as to what’s going on in someone’s mind or if anything whatsoever that was spoken resonated.
When I heard Jason’s testimony, I was speechless. I had never met this guy prior to this particular evening. Hearing the way that God had spoken to him through my story reinforced more than any other time over the past four years that, in some mysterious way, God continues to use a bleak position for great good.
Many people look at me and use the word “tragedy,” because from the outside all they can see is a rough situation. I want to insist on the opposite, as I’m sure Paul did when he was sitting in jail tied up in chains after numerous beatings writing to his friends, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” (Philippians 1:12) I am humbled that God has chosen to use my life as a means to make His name known.
God undoubtedly uses our struggles and sufferings to advance His Kingdom. Paul goes on to explain that people are coming to Christ because of the fact that he is suffering. “Because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” (Philippians 1:14)
Paul makes it clear he has learned to be content in any situation and is completely willing to be used however God will use him- even in prison. However, he asserts that he still longs to be free (who wouldn’t?) and see his friends in Philippi. While he spends an exorbitant amount of time focusing on the good that is coming as a result of being imprisoned, he still has faith that he will not remain in chains, adding, “And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.” (Philippians 2:24)
What an example for me to want to live out in my own life. This is the attitude I want to have. I’m continuing to learn to look for the good that God is doing throughout this trial and yet, I still have faith that my own current “imprisonment” in my own body is not the end-all.
You will never find me thrilled about paralysis itself. I think Paul would likewise say “Hey, it sure wasn’t fun getting sucker punched in the face and then getting thrown in this dungeon.” However, it is worth every minute of frustration, struggle, and moment of uncertainty to see how God is using my situation to draw others to Himself. That’s what I want to be about, while still remaining confident in faith that in His perfect timing, God will deliver me from my own chains.
Contact info: Ryan.S.Atkins@Gmail.com
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