“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
What comforting words these are. In a culture that tells us weakness is a bad thing, that you should be strong, look like you have it all together, and that you will only be happy if your home is perfect, your family is perfect, basically if you are perfect…then these verses can be a little shocking! You might wonder if you heard that right…is Paul saying to BOAST in your weaknesses??? Why yes he is:)
I think it is so interesting how Paul was given this “thorn” in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. We don’t exactly know what this thorn is, but it’s something that has become a weakness for him. Not only that, but he actually asked God to remove the thorn 3 times, and instead of removing it, God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God was more than capable of removing that thorn from him, but instead, the God who works ALL things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes, allowed Paul to still have this thorn in his side so that he would rely on God’s strength and not His own. He allowed Paul to experience His grace in a more powerful way than he would have experienced it not having this thorn in his side.
As soon as I read these verses, although I have read them and heard of them many times before, it resonated with me in a different way. I felt like my heart had just been calmed and soothed. Like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I immediately knew that the “thorn in my flesh” right now is my hearing loss. I got diagnosed with it 2 years ago, and the causes are still unknown. For being so young, it’s just really strange for me to all of a sudden have severe hearing loss. It can be a struggle sometimes, because I can find myself becoming isolated in conversations when I can’t understand what’s being said, and I can get insecure and down about it when I think I’m being an annoyance to others by not hearing what they’re saying. All that to say is, my hearing loss is tooooooootally a weakness! I have prayed for God to restore my hearing completely, as have others, and so far I still have hearing loss. But here’s the thing – I know God is more than capable of restoring my hearing at any point and without any effort. He’s healed deaf people in the Bible, and still heals today.
But what if He hasn’t healed me because it is actually for my GOOD to have this hearing loss? What if He’s not healing me in that area because through this trial I will have to depend on His strength and power more than I would have to with perfect hearing? What if I really did believe that He works all things together for my good…including hearing loss? It is so comforting to remember that God is still sovereign, even when we don’t understand our suffering. Isn’t it nice to know that when we don’t know what’s best for us, God is the One who does? Isn’t it nice to know that although the world tells us to never be weak, or at least never show it, that as we go through hardships and calamities, insults and persecutions, God says we should BOAST in those things? God tells us that when we are weak, then we are strong!!! Nothing in this world…not a single bad thing is too bad for us to be hopeless or not “good enough” for God. Because thanks to Jesus, we now get all the benefits from God as if we were the ones who lived the perfect, righteous life Jesus did. Because of Jesus, there is nothing you can do that would make God love you less, and there is nothing you can do that would make God love your more. Because His love for us is perfect and unconditional and constant. In the same way, there is no weakness “too weak” for God to use for our good. In fact, the power of Christ will rest upon you in your weaknesses.
Is there anything going on in your life right now that is causing you to feel weak? Any sickness, hardship, family issue, or anything else that is causing you to question God? Maybe you’re wondering if He’s listening to your prayers?
I encourage you to really evaluate your life right now and think about anything you’re struggling with. Bring it to God, and remember…if God doesn’t remove that weakness immediately, that doesn’t mean He’s not listening to you. Nor does it mean He doesn’t love you. Instead, maybe He wants you to experience His grace and strength on a totally different level than you would otherwise! He never promised that life would be free from trials, free from sickness and persecutions, free from hardships etc. (He actually promised the opposite – but I’ll save that for another post) but He did promise to carry us through those times and give us the strength we need. He just asks that we not rely on ourselves, and instead rely on HIM!!
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit The righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22
“casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7