“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 12:8-10 NIV
I’ve always found these words from Paul inspiring. Looking at suffering this way seems to make it worth it. Gives it meaning. I’m not a Bible scholar, so I don’t know what was going on in Paul’s life when he wrote this letter. But I do know that Paul faced painful hardships all throughout his life with Christ….even spending time in prison because of his ministry. He consistently brings this perspective to his own suffering. In Philippians 4 beginning in verse 11 he writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty of in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” These words were written during Paul’s time in prison. Wow.
Such dark contrast to the way I live my life. I am ashamed at my attitude to even the slightest discomfort. When I am in any sort of pain whether it be physical or emotional….my first thought is MAKE IT STOP! I feel as though I should never have to suffer. I am owed happiness. If I am uncomfortable, sad, or hurting, it is the job of those around me to make me feel better. To take it away. Entertain me. Distract me. Soothe me. Yikes!
After reading this passage, I found myself asking what my own “thorn” is. I suppose it is worry. From the time I was a very little girl, I have worried and worried. Back then it was my mother’s health, then my own, then my children…obsessing about different illnesses or impossible circumstances that would never likely happen. Ruining all of my todays worrying about tomorrow. I have given these worries (even my problem of worrying) to God a million times. Sometimes I feel very sorry for myself that he won’t take them from me. That makes me feel very lonely…like no one in the world understands how hard it is to be me. Like no one understands my struggle.
Yet, I feel like Jesus through Paul is telling me that I should look at difficult circumstances or suffering as opportunities for Him to reveal His power in me. Today, Pastor Jon spoke about embracing our brokenness. What does this mean? Clearly, up to this point, God has decided not to heal me of my “anxious personality”. Maybe he never will. Maybe he just wants me to keep bringing all of my junk to him. And be patient. And to know that when I am weak, he is strong.
What is your reaction to this text?