To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me 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. (verses 7-10)
Oh, how I want to be on top of everything, to get everything right, to have no gaps. I want to be strong and independent, with no glaring faults, no weakness that makes me “less than,” no wounding that causes me to stumble. Who wants thorns in the flesh?
Certainly Paul didn’t. We don’t know what his “thorn” was. Could it have been a physical ailment or emotional wounding or besetting temptation or ongoing battle in the mind or attack from the world around? We don’t know. Clearly it was spiritually induced and motivated, Paul describing it as a “messenger of Satan” (verse 7). And it caused torment. No wonder Paul wanted to be rid of it.
So he prayed, asking for its removal. What’s it like when an Apostle prays? Intense and passionate, I would expect. Three times, with that faith-filled intensity, Paul prayed. And the Lord answered him – but not in the way Paul wanted (which is an important lesson to me, in and of itself). “My grace is sufficient for you,” the Lord said. Certainly Paul, Apostle of grace, knew this truth well. But he, too, had room for further growth – he would learn the truth afresh, feet on the ground in the midst of his own need, played out in the very context of this specific weakness. “For my power is made perfect in weakness.” That’s the Lord’s perspective. It’s his game-plan.
Which then dashes my plan of finally getting to that place where I’ve got it all together, without gaps or insufficiencies or faults or foibles or weaknesses. This side of heaven, I’m never going to be there. But it’s OK, because his grace is sufficient. Indeed, it’s actually played out most powerfully in the midst of my weaknesses.
I want to really believe this. I want to fully embrace it. To not be surprised by my inadequacy. To not try to hide it. Rather, like Paul, I want to own my weaknesses and embrace them as fresh moments in which Christ’s power can rest on me.
O Lord Jesus, visit me afresh. Rest on me with your power. I submit the whole of myself to you – thorns and gaps and weaknesses included. Thank you that your grace is sufficient – always. I rejoice in that truth. I embrace its reality. I step deliberately into its experience, knowing that my weakness provides the context. Come in your power. Amen.
Reflect: What is one thorn or gap or weakness that is part of your present experience? Grab hold of it. Own it. Offer it to the Lord. Watch for his power to rest on you.