2Co 12:8-10 “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Paul did not like the thorn he was bearing in his flesh. It was not personally gratifying to appear weak. It had to be exhausting to be a fugitive barely escaping with his life on numerous occasions. Paul expressed that there were times when he despaired of living.
We sometimes get the idea that people like Paul were more than human. Here Paul clearly shows his humanity. He begged God to take away the thorn. He was tired of his infirmities. He asked God on three separate occasions to take it from him.
It is wonderful to realize that God answered Paul’s prayer. No, He did not remove the thorn. God does not always give us what we want. He does, however, give us an answer.
God’s answer to Paul’s request was not to say “I will take the thorn away.” Instead, He assured Paul that he would make him able to bear the thorn. He reminded Paul that he was a recipient of His grace. His grace is always sufficient.
We can certainly take comfort today that His grace is still sufficient. However, there is more to this thought than God’s grace being “enough.” The root of the word translated as sufficient carries the idea of raising up a barrier. God was not telling Paul (or us) that His grace was enough to get us by: His grace shields us, even from our thorn.
As long as we feel like we are sufficient, we do not wholly put our trust in God. When we are buffeted by the messenger of Satan, we realize that we are not enough on our own. We cry out to God, and He answers us by raising up His grace around us. He shows us the abundance of His sufficiency.
Once we understand that we are not enough, then we see the perfect strength of God. Our weakness does not cause God’s strength to be perfect. Instead, realizing our weakness manifests the perfect strength of God. We come to know that it is by His grace and not by our works.
Furthermore, those around us who have seen our infirmities are blessed to see that there is something greater than ourselves at work in our lives. As we overcome our thorn, it is made obvious that the strength does not belong to us. After all, like Paul, we have begged God to take the thorn from our lives on more than one occasion.
Once God has caused us to see and rely on the sufficiency of His grace, then we are able to take pleasure in our infirmities and the distresses of life. It is not that these things have become pleasurable in and of themselves. Instead, God’s sufficient grace has shown us that in enduring these things for Christ’s sake, He is glorified. Our weakness in the flesh results in being strong in the Lord.
May we, like David, pray to know how frail we are (Psalms 39:4) so that we might rejoice in how great God is!