For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.The Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, English Standard Version (ESV)
Editor’s Note: Today’s article is by guest author Jeremy Cannon, brother of Rambling Ever On contributor Gowdy Cannon. Jeremy is 38 years old, husband to Lacie and father to Blaine, and serves as a deacon at Horse Branch Free Will Baptist church in Turbeville, SC. He writes about his struggles with personal loss, fighting the weather as a farmer and feelings of not being good enough.
Power Perfected Through Weakness
Have you ever felt like you had done all you could to the best of your ability and even more than needed to provide a positive outcome or result and it still wasn’t good enough?
On a public forum, in a public place, or even out loud it may be hard to say, but deep down I feel like many of us have been there. I know I have been there all too often. Many times it’s only a passing moment but then there are times that seem to never end. For me and many other farmers throughout our state, these feelings have been very common these past five years. The pressure of having to perform physically to save on labor costs is not to be outdone by the mental requirements of keeping the farm and the family together and upbeat. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” seems to be a recurring theme for our family since losing Poppy, my father-in-law, to brain cancer in 2012.
And the farm–our primary source of income–has certainly taken its hits these past few years. From the drought of 2014 to the Great Flood of 2015 to the long list of hurricanes that have ravaged the east coast seemingly year after year. Many of us around here can’t remember a fall with normal weather. What is this “normal” everyone speaks about anyway? We always discuss our “new normal” after a drastic change or event in our lives. But what does that even mean? Is it our new expectation of how life will be?
When My Plans and Dreams Aren’t Enough
I had it all figured out. I knew from the time I was a little boy that I would be a farmer. My first love of work was in farming, and I have never imagined myself doing anything else except for joining the Air Force. But my call to the farm and family outweighed my love for planes. And I chose to stay home coming out of high school in ’99. My life was all in place by 2009. I had a loving wife. We had just remodeled a house we purchased near the farm, and we had a baby that was due in October.
But then my father-in-law was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer, and my expectations would be forever changed. I’ve come to realize the disconnect is when my expectations of life don’t coincide with the bigger plan that God had in place. Matthew 3 says that I am certainly not alone.
Is This Really What We’ve Waited For?
From all accounts, John the Baptist had it going on. I think he had his life all figured out. God selected him to be the forerunner of the Messiah, the chosen One, the One the prophets had spoken of years ago. John was walking the walk and talking the talk. He was calling out Pharisees and Sadducees with boldness, and his preaching was seeing many come to repentance and being baptized. He reached the pinnacle of his ministry when he was able to baptize the Christ. Life was GOOD.
The next time we see John is in chapter 11 of Matthew and he is in prison. What is going on? I assume this is nothing like what John had expected his life to end up. He sends back a question to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”1 He had been faithful, doing God’s work, and this is how it shall end? Jesus’s response corrects my viewpoint of life. “Go tell John what you hear and see.”2 He says the blind are seeing, the lame are walking, lepers are cleaned, the deaf are hearing, the dead are raised, and the poor are hearing the Gospel.3
But don’t miss the next verse. “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”4 He tells John that he knows it make not look like it from in prison, but His will is being done. The way you prepared for me is coming to fruition. Lives are being changed by the Gospel. Don’t be upset that your life isn’t living up to your expectations. I have something better!
Oh, how I have felt like John! I’ve tried to be faithful. I’ve tried to do what I thought was right. Each and every year I’ve tried to do my best. But Satan is screaming in my ear you’re not enough. Between the loss of family members like Poppy in 2012 and my first cousin Todd in 2013 (to a boating accident) and the losing our house because of mold from the 2015 Flood and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, we have known despair. If that weren’t enough, we then experienced Hurricane Florence. And just recently we watched Hurricane Dorian off our coast, beating down on our crops with rain and wind.
I know where John was in that prison. I also know that my expectations have had to change. But I know the Gospel is moving forward. And God reminds me of a wife whose life was saved during her pregnancy. And a baby boy born alive by grace with a double knot in his umbilical cord. It was the first the doctor saw born alive in that condition in all of his 25+ years of practice. I have family who have willingly opened their house to us for nearly two years. We have never gone without food or clothing. I know I have been able to touch more lives during these past years of heartache, disappointment, uncertainty of the future than I ever could have during a period of security and plenty.
God can change your circumstances, but He’d rather change you.
It seems like my greatest personal defeats have come when life didn’t happen like I expected. When, in fact, it is those times that have given me the victory. When my best isn’t enough, it’s MORE than enough. It’s the expectations of my life that were wrong.
And I’m okay with that. Otherwise, how would I understand how God works through weakness, despair and failure? To Him be the glory forever in Christ Jesus.