In 2 Corinthians 12, The Apostle Paul told of his amazing trip to Heaven. He writes: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know – God knows- was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.”
This is part of a fantastic message about how amazing and perhaps terrible things coexist in us at times. Paul, the same man that was given the gift of an actual glimpse of Heaven is the same man who goes on to tell us there is a thorn in his flesh that our Lord has allowed to reside in him. He prayed about it three times asking the Lord to remove it, but the answer was a resounding “no.” Not the “yes” Paul wanted. There are many thoughts on what it was, or could have been, but it is never clear. The thorn is a metaphor for the ongoing challenges most of us have. Paul states that our Lord of Love told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul goes on to say, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me.”
Although God did not remove whatever Paul’s physical affliction was, He promised to use it to demonstrate HIs power in Paul as He does so often with us. A show of power in weakness. The fact that God’s power is displayed in people with problems should give us courage. Though we recognize our limitations, we should not let them defeat us. Instead, we should turn to our Lord to seek pathways for effectiveness despite our “thorns.” We learn to rely on Him for our effectiveness, rather than simply on our own energy, effort or talent. This is where He has the opportunity to meet us in the middle. To teach us something of how His power can compensate in the midst of our lack. Someone once said, “Our weakness not only helps develop Christian character, it also deepens our worship, because in admitting our weakness, we affirm God’s strength.” God wants us to understand “His strength” so that we might begin to comprehend the power that is ours to tap into when we need it.
May we join Paul in celebrating what we have been given, not in perfection, but in revelation. Perfection of the flesh can and does come sometimes as we pray and work towards that goal. It’s wonderful when that happens but always fleeting. Our imperfections, on the other hand, invite a special intimacy between us and God. We simply ask the Lord to give us what we need and depend on Him to meet that need in whatever way He chooses. That dependency establishes trust in Him and the path He sets us on for our ultimate good. He may heal us totally, or may choose to keep challenging us. Either way, His Grace is sufficient and brings an outcome we can fully trust.