“Therefore, 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.” (II Corinthians 12:7b-10)
I can still remember the day when I was 14 years old and had taken a break from doing my homework. I found three friends and we played a game of two on two football. On one play, I attempted to tackle one of the friends who was twice my size. I planted my left foot and tried to bring him down. Then it happened—a pop and searing pain.
Because I was from a small town and this happened in 1970, it took several years for doctors to figure out what had happened. In that brief respite from homework, I had severely torn the ACL in my left knee. It was six years before it was repaired, but it was never again the same. Thankfully, I could still be active and participate in most sports, but I always knew the injury would affect me more and more as I grew older. I stopped running in my early 30’s and gave up all sports in my mid-40’s. Using an elliptical machine and walking are my only forms of exercise now.
How I wish I could still run, play tennis, basketball, and Ultimate Frisbee. Working with college students, there are always opportunities to do these things, and I would love it. But there is no cartilage left in my knee. To do these things now is not a possibility, and I have had to learn to accept this fact, even as I yearn to be out on the court or field once again.
We don’t know what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, but we know it limited him in life and he desperately wanted it removed. Yet, the Lord refused to take it away because it made Paul more dependent on Him. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
We often picture our perfect world as one without difficulties, and when they arise, we want them quickly resolved. Yet, it is in our times of trials, times of weakness, that we most lean on the Lord. Not being able to do the things I once did affects my pride and self-esteem. My identity is easily determined by what I can do and can’t do. And that is the point of this passage. Our identities can easily be tied to other things and not the Lord. Our weaknesses remind us of that. And that is why the Lord often allows them to remain.
Today, whatever weaknesses or difficulties you are experiencing, remember, though you would rather have them removed, the Lord might be content keeping them in your life so you will be solely dependent on Him.
© Jim Musser 2012