walk in the word
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. (2 Corinthians 12:9, esv)
How am I ever going to get her to start praying?
How on earth can I get him depending completely on Me?Thorns are allowed by God, so that in teaching us to live with them, He can amplify His glory through us. Click To Tweet
Words like these are never spoken in heaven—ever!—because the options are limitless. The resources that God can employ to bring us to our knees are as vast and individual as the number of children He’s dealing with.
Sometimes He chooses to accomplish these purposes through temporary seasons of suffering—“various trials,” the Bible calls them, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2b–4 nasb). Sometimes, though, the suffering isn’t so temporary. Sometimes it’s lasting.
Or as Paul described it—“a thorn” (2 Corinthians 12:7, esv).
A thorn typically is only a small thing, yet it hurts like crazy, disproportionate to its size. You wouldn’t think it could cause so much pain, but it’s sharp, like a pin prick. And if it gets stuck under your skin, you feel the stab of it every time something so much as brushes across it.
In Paul’s case, he didn’t identify the specifics of it any further, this thorn he said was “given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Maybe the reason he didn’t speak of it in more detail was so we could all relate to it, whatever our personal “thorn” might happen to be. A chronic health problem, for instance—something physical. A deep pain or abuse from the past—something emotional. A dark, shameful failure that’s left a scar across your memory—something spiritual. Maybe even a thankless job or a burdensome responsibility. Every Christian has a thorn of some kind.
But it’s hard. And it hurts. “Three times,” Paul said, “I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me” (2 Corinthians 12:8). Have you ever done that? Ever said that? Do we really have to do this, Lord? I can’t take it anymore!
Notice, though, God’s answer to Paul was the same as His answer to us—not, “Paul, you can do it,” but rather, “Paul, I can.” “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The thorn creates an opening for God’s grace, without which we have no capacity for doing anything that’s eternally profitable.
Trials come, and trials go—these temporary, painful circumstances sent by God to transform our conduct and character. But thorns don’t go away. Sent by Satan, they are allowed by God, so that in teaching us to live with them, He can amplify His glory through us.
One day, I promise you, we’ll be standing around in heaven, asking each other, “What was your thorn? How did you handle it?” Did we spend a lot of time wishing we had a different one? Did we treat it like an avoidable accident instead of the work of a purposeful God? Did we fuss and complain about what it cost us and what we couldn’t do in life because of it?
Or will we have heeded His Word to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1, nasb)?
Welcome the thorn. Embrace the grace.
Father, I confess my suffering can sometimes seem bigger in my eyes than You are. Forgive me for that. Help me remember Your greatness and goodness. Remind me today how short my life is, and how privileged I am to be one of Your children. No matter what You allow me to face, and no matter how long You choose for me to endure it, Your grace is always enough. YOU are always enough. I draw upon Your grace again, and I affirm that I trust You, today and every day, in Jesus’ name, amen.
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