But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
SCHOLARS HAVE LONG DEBATED the nature of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Paul apparently struggled with some physical, emotional, or spiritual difficulty, a long-term torment. He pleaded with God to take this suffering away, but God refused, saying instead that his grace would be enough for Paul to bear the torment of this, and indeed that God’s power would be perfected in Paul’s weakness.
I think we have romanticized Paul’s thorn. However he dealt with it, Paul struggled sincerely with the thorn and probably felt great shame over it. He may have experienced persistent temptation to sin, or a physical ailment that caused him shame when others were healed so frequently in those days. Paul, who frequently shares personal details about himself in his letters, can’t even bring himself to describe his difficulty to his readers.
Like Paul, we may struggle with realities we don’t want to share with others; we might not even want to admit them to ourselves. We have difficulty shaking an addiction; we have a child who is running away from the faith; we experience doubt. Yet God in his mercy enables even these disappointments to serve a purpose: They remind us of our inability to do this life ourselves. And when we remember that we can’t do it ourselves, we remember that there is One who is always with us, sticking closer than a brother.
Cling to God’s power even when problems don’t disappear.
Michael Jordan is the dean of the chapel at Houghton College (New York), where he also serves as chair of the Department of Biblical Studies, Theology, and Philosophy.
© 2019 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.