I have a very close friend that is struggling with some major physical limitations. He is unable to do many things that in the past came easily to him. Just walking from his house to the car takes a major toll on him. He is elderly and so limitations are to be expected but living with an increasingly diminished capacity is very tough. As we were talking about his struggle, he asked if God was trying to get his attention about something through the pain. As we talked he recognized that the answer is clearly yes.
God uses all kinds of things to teach us about what living in faith is about. This week in chapter 12 we hear Paul explaining that he was afflicted with a debilitating “thorn in [his] flesh” and that God allowed this “messenger from Satan” to torment him. This isn’t easy to take. After all isn’t God supposed to protect and provide for us as His loved children? Well like any good parent He wants what is ultimately best for us and there are times when pain and suffering are better than peace and tranquility. God allows us to undergo difficulty, trials, and struggles so that we can learn to trust and depend on Him for strength and security. Paul recognizes that God was using Satan’s attacks to keep him humble and dependent. My friend with his physical suffering is learning the same kind of dependence Paul describes. In his humbling circumstances he has a choice: get bitter and despondent over his waning strength or acknowledge that this is his new normal and ask God to show him how to make the very most of his life. This is the way to truly experience God’s power and presence in our lives. This isn’t a passive “I give up” mentality but an active “I give myself to God” approach. This is where we begin to see the power God offers us!
“So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT)