In 2 Corinthians 12, we have the glorious opportunity to have truth poured into our hearts through Paul’s testimony. Paul was an incredible man whom I admire greatly and I believe there is much to be learned from him and his life. I also believe there is ample opportunity to relate to him and apply his struggles and his testimony to our own lives.
In this chapter, Paul discusses his weakness and how he will not boast in anything but his weakness. In verse 7, he mentions how a thorn was given to him in the flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. This symbolic thorn weakened him and restricted him in certain areas, perhaps in areas that he would be more likely to rely on himself rather than on God. This thorn was a bothersome thing and a painful thing, it was a weakness.
This thorn ailed him so much that 3 times he pleaded with the Lord asking Him to remove it, but the Lord said to Paul in verse 9, one of my favorite passages in the Bible, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.” Paul goes on to say that therefore he will boast all the more gladly of his weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon him. Paul’s attitude toward this weakness in his life totally changed after hearing from the Lord. He begins by asking God to be delivered from this thorn, but after hearing from God, no longer was he praying for it to be removed but even goes on to say, “I will boast all the more gladly of it.” God turned the thorn into an instrument to bring Paul to a greater experience of His power working in his life. He learned to boast in that thorn, because through it he came to a deeper relationship with God where he knew more of His power in his life than he’d ever known before.
I believe we can all relate to Paul and his thorn in the flesh, a thorn that weakened him and caused him pain. We all have something that ails us, something that we have pleaded with God to remove from us, whether that be physical or emotional. We all have setbacks and weaknesses that seem as if they are so out of place and life would be so much better if they were absent from our lives. But how wonderful and comforting it is to rest in the truth and the hope that our Father knows what is best for us and what is required to keep us from becoming conceited.
Paul’s testimony speaks to me and I desire to have the same mindset and attitude he had toward his thorn toward my own weaknesses. There are many days I do not understand the restrictions God has allowed me to have, but I have the assurance that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The Holy Spirit comforts my soul day after day and reminds me that His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). I want a kind of faith and humility that says “God, for Your sake, I am content with my weaknesses. If my weakness is bringing you all the more glory and if You are using my setbacks to build Your kingdom all the more, so be it.”
How encouraging it is to hope in the truth that our setbacks and our various weaknesses are not in vain, they are not without purpose. Not only can we rejoice in suffering because it produces perseverance, but we can boast in our setbacks because we have assurance that God’s power is perfected in them and that He is working everything out for the good of those who love Him. Let us take pride in our weakness for the sake of Christ’s name being lifted higher and His power being more evident in our lives.
God’s power is greatest when we are at our weakest and what we need most in our weakness is God’s sufficient grace. His grace is a grace that meets us where we are. It is a grace that deepens our faith and that forces us to trust in God alone. It is a grace that allows us to pour out everything we have in front of Him and bring all of our weariness to His rest. It is a grace that is sufficient to pull us back up and say, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.”
Paul learned to glory in his thorn because it was an instrument through which the power of God was demonstrated in His life. I pray that our faith is expanded and we are brought to a place of humility that says, “God, I boast in my weakness and I am content in my weakness if it brings your name all the more glory and honor.” No matter what you are going through, His grace is sufficient for you and He will see you through. May the greatest answer to our prayer be not taking us out of the circumstance, but God’s all-sufficient grace taking us through the circumstance with a strengthened faith and a humble spirit. Let us lean on God with all of our weight, for when we are weak, then we are strong.