During her last few years, my mother suffered from some very debilitating health issues. After more than six decades of serving God first as a missionary in Africa, then in home-based missions, the day came when she was pretty much confined to a chair or to her bed.
She was on restricted activity because if her heartbeat increased too much—even from walking—her lungs would fill up with fluid, and she would have to go to the hospital to have the fluid drained. Then back home again until the next time. There was one point where she spent all but two weeks of a five-month period in the hospital, several times in intensive care.
Needless to say, she did not respond well to her new normal, and some months before her death we heard her frequently pray that God would just take her to heaven. She saw no reason to continue living in that condition.
In his book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Timothy Keller relates a similar incident with his own father. He writes,
“At one time he said to a friend, ‘What’s the point?’ He was too sick to do the things that made his life meaningful—so why go on? At my father’s funeral, his friend related to us how he gently reminded my father of some basic themes in the Bible. If God had kept him in this world, then there were still some things for him to do for those around him. Jesus was patient under even greater suffering for us, so we can be patient under lesser suffering for him. And heaven will make amends for everything. These brief words, which were expressed in the most compassionate spirit, reconnected my father to Christian beliefs he had known for years. It restored his spirit to face his final days.”
Oh, how I wish I could have related that to my mother. If only she had been able to see what others saw in her. If only she could have seen what God was doing through her. The truth is, although she did not realize it, her life was speaking to those around her. At her memorial service many people came up to us to tell us how she enriched their lives, or how she had prayed for them. You see, her weakness was exactly what God used to speak into other people’s lives.
He even told us this is what would happen. The apostle Paul dealt with what he called a “thorn in the flesh” for many years. He begged God to take it away, but God didn’t. Instead, “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses…. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, emphasis added).
Strong in myself? No! Instead, when we reach the end of our own strength, God’s strength takes over. And His strength, worked out in my life, brings glory to Him!
 Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition), p. 13, emphasis added.