If you’ve visited with me here before, you’ll know that I confess to needing a knock upside the head sometimes to get one concept or another to stick. (see here, here, and here. I’m sure there are others, as I am a very slow learner!)
Most recently, it’s been the truth illustrated in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Before I continue, I’ll give you a little backstory so you’ll know where I’m coming from.
All my life I’ve had allergies (seasonal, dust, animals, yada, yada, yada) that primarily affect my eyes, along with some lesser symptoms, as well as skin problems (eczema). They’ve affected me to varying degrees through the years. Some years, they have affected my day to day life in troublesome ways. Other years, thankfully, not so much.
Generally speaking, my body just does not like change (who does?). At the beginning of heating season, I always have an adjustment period as the furnace kicks in or the wood stove throws out its warmth. All the moisture leaves my body: my skin is parched and my eyes are dry and irritated.
That’s not so bad. The troublesome part comes when my eyeballs are so irritated, itchy and dry-yet-watery that I get blisters on them, my vision is affected and I am literally blinded by the light (I know Manfred Mann is groovin’ in your head now–you’re welcome, and yes, I am that old). Driving, reading, computer work is all problematic, and sometimes impossible, for any length of time. Many doctors and many therapies have left me unsatisfied. A cool cloth gives temporary relief, but activates eczema. It feels like a losing battle. Usually the symptoms last a few weeks, then I am back to normal save a few triggers here and there. This winter, there was no acclimatizing and I’ve been left kinda miserable. Some days are somewhat more manageable and I had a blessed, if short, reprieve while we were down south.
So there it is. Whining complete…thank you for your patience. As you see, not life-threatening by any means, but life-affecting.
Needless to say, I’ve prayed. My family has prayed. Friends have prayed.
In our ladies’ Bible study, we’ve been studying prayer (see here). 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 was a passage we looked at one week.
We read that Paul, suffering from some sort of ‘thorn’–some say a vision issue, some say persecution, there are various opinions–prayed that the Lord would take it away. As far as I can tell, his thorn was used by Satan to attack him, allowed by God to teach him. Paul acknowledged that it was, perhaps, to keep him humble, to keep others from ‘exalting’ him. (After all, in previous verses, he describes an amazing experience of personal revelation from the Lord. That would make anyone stand out among the crowd!) God answered his prayer. I’m sure the answer wasn’t exactly what Paul was expecting. Essentially God said, ‘No, I’m not going to heal you, I’m going to help you.’ God declared that He was enough for Paul. Paul not only accepted this answer, but continued on to say that he rejoiced in it!
A day or two later, this passage came up in my chronological reading plan. I mentioned it to my df girl one morning, in context of my eye troubles. “Man…does that mean He’s telling me, ‘NO’?” She gave a compassionate shrug. Seriously, not two minutes later, I read a devotion that came in my inbox that referred to the author’s ‘thorn’. My df girl laughed a wow-how-ironic-is-that kinda laugh as I shared this with her.
My response? “I rejoice, Lord, at what you will do through this!” Ummmmm…no. It was more like this: “Well, Lord, You’d better show me what You mean when you say Your grace is sufficient for me. ‘Cause some days, I’m ready to scream in frustration!” I know. Not very Christ-like. But that’s my honest, sad, hot mess sometimes.
Carrying on, we see that God answered Paul with this: ‘My grace IS sufficient for you.” That part is done. In Paul’s troubles, God is already sufficient–all that’s required.
I read somewhere that the word “grace” is found 159 times in the Bible. I suppose that means it’s a pretty important concept. I (we all) need grace. Grace is offered through Jesus as a well-spring of God’s great love for me (and for you). Two definitions given by Miriam-Webster for the word grace:
- a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance
- a special favour : privilege
Sanctification means to be made holy. Sigh. I get it. Through this, I will be made more like my dear Saviour. The journey may not be easy, but He will hold my hand through it. God’s favour is sufficient through it. I just need to draw on His reserves.
God continued with, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Isn’t that just like God? He didn’t stop at saying I’m all you need, He gives more out of His abundance! God affirmed that while He would not take away Paul’s problems, He would give something better. God’s mightiness would shine in Paul’s weakness. Grace. Boldness and power and strength to reach people in an impressive way. God allowed Paul, previously an enemy of Christ and the gospel, to be an extraordinary tool for Him!
God’s glory shines in all its fullness as He uses weak vessels. He calls me to know Him more and to share that knowledge with others. As I see my weakness plain and clear, I see Him more clearly and I allow Him to do a mighty work in me and, in turn, He empowers me to do the task He has set before me.
Now the question remains: ‘Will I walk the walk, or just talk the talk?’
Will I, like Paul, rejoice in my infirmities that ‘the power of God may rest upon me’?
Come with me and find encouragement over here: