Diane Woerner on a Strength That Is from God Alone
For many years I have pondered a little prayer tucked away in the book of 3 John. Verse 2 reads, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” Deceptively simple, I have come to understand that this brief sentence holds an important key to God’s view of our lives.
The Greek word for prosper, euodoo, literally means to do well along the way. In other words, John is praying that, as his beloved friends journey through life, God will give them that which is good. But he clearly implies that the prospering of their souls is the precursor to their prospering in all other respects.
What I have come to believe, therefore, is that any failure to “prosper in all things and be in health” should be seen as a possible indication that our soul is not prospering. Which is not to say that anyone who has good health or other forms of prosperity necessarily has a prospering soul. Nor is it to say that ill health and other personal struggles are necessarily proof of spiritual weakness.
What I am saying is that when illness and an ongoing pattern of disappointments and failures in other areas of our life seem to persist, rather than assuming them to represent a string of bad luck, to be the result of some sort of victimization, or even to be “the attack of the enemy,” we should see them as places where God wants us to find spiritual revelation. He is calling us, then, to press into these circumstances as the places where the foundational prosperity of soul is to be gained.
The Right Kind of Waiting
Consider our natural responses to a lack of prospering. For some, it’s a call to work harder, or to try something different, or to become more disciplined personally. For others, it’s a reason to blame our circumstances, or cause for resenting the lack of assistance from those around us, or an incentive to pursue greater justice—from our employer or the government or whomever. Yet for many, ongoing downturns in life eventually bring them to a point of resignation. This is the best they’ve got . . . at least for now. Maybe it’s a matter of waiting for God to move. Maybe it’s a call to patient endurance.
In one sense, of course, patience with endurance is exactly the right response to hardship. But what sometimes goes unnoticed is that waiting actually involves a fork in the road. Nobody really stops on life’s journey. We have to do something with our days—and something with our hearts.
This is where John’s prayer applies. As I understand it, the last thing we should do in response to a lack of prospering is to settle in with our favorite distractions, assuming that when God is ready to change our situation, he’ll do just that.
I like the Old Testament picture of waiting. For example, here’s Isaiah 40:31:
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
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