In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
I attempt to reflect on this passage and I feel as if I have heard it a thousand times, but how wonderful it is that the Word is alive, living and breathing – convicting me and curing me of my spiritual pride using this verse.
I’ve always seen my weaknesses as bad things. . .things that keep me from perfect union with the Father, things that stump my prayer life and break my confidence and self-worth. I fall, I get back up. I fall, I stay down for a while. I finally get back up and I fall right back again. At times, I feel so close to the perfection I desire and am soon reminded of how impossible it is to achieve it. There is no time more lonely for me than when I have just fallen – I feel abandoned by God. But here’s news; news everyone knows, but news nearly everyone forgets every time we succumb to our weaknesses: God is Love, and His love for us is not limited to how good we are.
Everyone has different thorns and shortcomings, and when we fall to them, shame is never far behind. This shame encourages us to hide from God. Imagine a little boy who accidentally shoots himself in the foot. Now, imagine that boy not going to his father for help, but instead putting duct tape on the wound and leaving the bullet inside. He hides from his father and refuses the help that he can give him. Now compare this analogy to humans and sin. Why should we ever hide from His healing mercy? We have a God who weeps for us, simply because He sees the deep wounds we make in ourselves…and He tells us we were made for more. God hungers deeply for our holiness, our flourishing, and our happiness, so He transforms these wounds – these thorns from Satan – into something greater. What a grace, that Christ uses Satan’s weapon against him to protect his little children from sin, specifically from the sin of pride.
Spiritual pride comes about when everything in our life is running smoothly. So often we rely on our own human strength to get by. Our weaknesses show us that our self-sufficiency does not compare in any way to Christ’s divine strength. When we fail and fall, we should be reminded of the reality that we need a Savior. We cannot provide saving grace for ourselves.
This dependency that we have on the Father is sometimes compared to the dependency a slave has on his master. How wrong that is! This is an idea that so many of us hold, even subconsciously, and it offends the heart of God, the heart of a daddy who loves his child simply because they exist.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Christ gives generously; He brings order to our disorder, and the burdens that weigh so heavily on us have been made into gateways for grace and union with Him. This is why I think the most significant part of Paul’s passage is when he describes delighting in weaknesses.
Paul doesn’t just tolerate his weaknesses, but he finds comfort in them. His shortcomings actually bring him joy! This seems backwards, since the world teaches that comfort is synonymous with happiness. But this was not the case for Paul, neither is it for any of us. Our weaknesses reveal something about our nature that Paul was very familiar with: We were never meant to fight alone. God’s mighty Love enables us to keep existing, dwelling within us and all around us. Once we know this in the depths of our hearts, how can we keep from rejoicing? What a relief to know that we have a perfect Lord who never tires of healing our wounds.
The existence of God is an eternal motion of Love. We mustn’t forget who the Trinity is when facing our own weaknesses – Love is patient. The Lord does not ask us to be holy for his sake, but for our own. He knows what will truly satisfy us. His desire is for our happiness and He created us very good. The enemy twists our once beautiful desires and causes us to sin, but how stunning of a God we have, He who restores all things and makes them beautiful again. If you are still discouraged, I leave you with this thought: Once unified with Love Himself in Heaven, our thorns in the flesh will be completely removed, eternally wound in with the crown of Christ – our Lover, the One who takes all of our wounds upon Himself.
Lord, I need grace. I need you to save me once again. You draw close to the weak and broken, and You invite them into Your heart. Thank you for your never ending compassion towards me. Help everyone know your love and feel the tenderness of your forgiveness. Please shatter my selfish desires and build them into a selfless beauty that reveals your face. I want to listen to Mary, when she says, “Do whatever He tells you.” I am here and ready to love you, Jesus, my one love, my sweetest love.