Today I’d like to share one of my new favorite Bible passages. It’s Paul talking, in the second book of Corinthians. Paul is one of my very favorite biblical characters- he’s wise, brave, and on fire for Christ.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But 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, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Wow. Powerful, isn’t it?
First of all, though, I think the first few sentences are confusing. So I read the passage’s explanation in my John MacArthur study Bible (which I highly recommend) and learned that: the “thorn in the flesh” is most likely a demonized person, probably the leader of the false apostles. These false apostles were causing problems in Paul’s beloved church, which was very painful to him. How was a “messenger of Satan” allowed to mess with Paul, who was doing great things for God? Simple; it’s like the story of Job. As my MacArthur bible states it, “Satan was the immediate cause, but God was the ultimate cause.” Satan couldn’t have touched Paul (or Job) without God’s approval. But God did approve it, for reasons that Paul (and Job) had a hard time understanding at first.
Do you see how that applies to us now, though? If something difficult/sad/frustrating is happening to you, it could mean God is at work in your life, for reasons you just don’t understand right now. In the passage above, I think a logical reaction might be- “okay, why would God allow that to happen? Paul is working to better God’s church!” Or at least, that’s the reaction I had. Well, here’s why.
Paul had had many revelations, even a trip to heaven and back. Like verse 7 says, “To keep [Paul] from becoming conceited” is the reason for the “thorn.” God knew Paul’s extreme spiritual experiences could lead to the man feeling prideful. It seems God didn’t want such an important warrior for Christ to fall into that, so he brought him back down to earth. If God hadn’t done that, what might’ve happened to Paul’s ministry? I think it’s important to remember that we can never see the big picture while God always can. You may have some really tough circumstances, but they could just be God steering you away from something much worse, making you stronger, allowing you to develop trust, giving you a testimony to share.
I love the Lord’s answer to Paul’s pleas to remove the difficult person. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” You might’ve heard something like, “God answers every prayer. But he doesn’t always say yes.” We see that here. God didn’t comply with Paul’s wishes; he knew better than Paul. But God didn’t leave to him to be fearful and full of anxiety about the problem- he told Paul that all he needed was God’s grace; that God’s power was going to be made perfect in weakness.
And I love Paul’s attitude after. He immediately realized- “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, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Now that is trust, eh?
What’s your struggle? Remember that God promised his grace is sufficient for you. His power can be made perfect in your weakness. You’re not alone. Don’t “waste” your bad days by acting bitter and ugly. Have an attitude like that of Paul, and God can use your bad days to make you strong.