Power made perfect in weakness
7…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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. 10 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
A few years ago I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and it changed my life drastically. Suddenly, food became an enemy. Gluten had to be avoided at all costs. Even a crumb of bread would cause weeks of suffering and long-term damage. My social life took a severe knock and I felt isolated. It was no longer easy to commune with God’s people.
In time I came to see my diagnosis as a tool that God used to remind me of my dependence on Him for all things. In a world where disability and weakness are pitied and the weak are mocked, Paul suggests that we take joy in our weaknesses by pointing us to Christ as our strength. Paul too, had this “thorn in his flesh”. He, like any of us, prayed that the Lord would remove it. But God did not.
When we endure suffering that goes on over an extended period, we start to believe that we are being punished or that God has forgotten us. The agony is deepened when fellow believers view us as forgotten or cursed by God.
Paul’s words remind us that our weaknesses (whether it be illness, or infertility, or poverty, or singleness, or joblessness, or a struggle with a particular sin, or any other form of weakness we might struggle with) are also God working for our good and His purposes (Romans 8:28-30).
Romans 8: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
When your sickness will not heal, when your circumstances do not change, when you remain single or childless, when you cannot find a job, when you have struggled time and again with the same besetting sin, these too are His blessings. We overcome nothing in our own strength. And sometimes overcoming is not coming out of, but going through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, fearing no evil, because He goes before and comes behind us (Psalm 23).
God’s power is made manifest in my weakness and in yours. It is He who carries us through the pain of each private suffering. Our weakness is His grace in our lives, a constant reminder to put our trust in Him and not in ourselves. His primary end is His glory and in turn, our good. And what is best for the bride of Christ is to be ready for her Groom when He arrives to take her with Him into an eternity of communion.
Paul reminds us that when weakness makes us depend more on the Lord and causes us to glorify His name, we should take joy in the very weaknesses that bring us to our knees.