I have struggled all night about whether or not to write this post that I am going to share with you. You see, I never want to tell you something that I am not able to do myself. But God has put a burning desire in me to share this message with each of you today. Maybe we can learn something together. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 says:
“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Let me give you a little background about Paul leading up to this verse. Scripture tells us that Paul was a great man of God. His ministry was growing and he performed many miracles through the power of Christ. But we see that Paul had something that was bothering him. It bothered Paul so much that he prayed three times for it to be removed. We are told about this “thorn in the flesh” that was very grievous to Paul. It is uncertain what the “thorn in the flesh” was, but many scholars believe it could have been acute bodily pain or sickness. Some even believe it could have been spiritual in nature – such as a temptation or persecution from an indivdual that constantly harassed Paul. In any case, He was growing very distressed.
After Paul prayed three times for this thorn to be removed, we see that God didn’t remove it. It is at this point that I ask myself why didn’t God answer Paul’s prayer? He was a faithful servant full of faith and yet, God didn’t remove the very thing that was distressing him the most. God’s answer to Paul is that His grace and strength would be sufficient for him to bear through the pain. Paul was drawing closer to God with his “thorn in the flesh.” Could it be that sometimes our prayers are not answered quickly because God is wanting to use our circumstance to draw us closer to Himself?
I think about a medical diagnosis that I have been praying about for thirteen years to be taken away. I don’t like the pain and uncertainty that comes along with the disease. But as I look back, I realized that every time I would have a flare up, I would begin to press into God more by praying and reading the Bible. The “thorn” was actually bringing me closer to God. I realized when I was weak and feeling like I couldn’t go on anymore, was when God would demonstrate His power to me the most. God’s grace flooded over me to allow me to push through my circumstances. Although unpleasant, I begin to see that my “thorns” act as an aid rather than a handicap. Paul realized this point long before me and it may be why he wrote 2 Corinthians 12:10:
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I don’t know if I can say that yet. I don’t like it when things get hard. But Paul is saying that he takes pleasure in trials because it is when he sees God’s demonstrated power the most. So maybe it is safe to say that sometimes God uses certain circumstances in our lives or certain people to buffet us so that we remain humbled and in constant need of Him. Maybe we need to begin to look at our hardships as blessings from God because they are drawing us closer to Him (or at least they should be).
I am reminded of a song from Laura Story called Blessing that I want to share with you. The chorus goes:
What if your blessings come through raindrops, What if your healing comes through tears, What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near. What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life, Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy. And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?
This song brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. The questions are so deep and yet so matter of fact. I guess my biggest question for you as well as for myself is this: If God never answers your prayer or never removes the thorn that buffets you, will you still love and serve Him? Run to God in your pain. He is and will always be right by your side. It may just be that the trial you are going through is serving a greater purpose that you may never know the answer to until you get to heaven.