When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

God responds in 12:9 with a strong and gentle word for Paul that he surely would never forget. After pleading, and pleading, and pleading for the thorn to be taken away God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” A quick glance at God’s response tempts us to believe God is unloving and selfish. “You mean I’m going to keep suffering so You can be magnified?” Wouldn’t God take the thorn away rather than let His servant continue to suffer? Isn’t that how love works? Isn’t love removing pain from peoples lives and not allowing them to remain in it? Then the question turns personal: Wouldn’t God solve my marriage problems? Wouldn’t God finally heal my disease or cancer? Wouldn’t God keep my family fed or my children healthy? Well, sometimes tha answer is “no.” Friends, God loves us in ways we don’t always find to be the most comfortable, He does this because He knows one thing is best for us, Him. C.S. Lewis stated it clearly: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” God wisely, strongly, and lovingly kept the thorn in Paul’s life, but at the same time told him when suffering comes His grace is sufficient to keep him strong, to keep him standing, to keep him moving forward and not giving up. Paul wanted a change in his circumstances, but God wanted more, he wanted to change Paul. At this news, Paul rejoices!!

All of this is confirmed by Paul’s response to what God told him in the end of v9 and v10. After hearing that the thorn would not be taken away and that God would hold him up through it by His grace, Paul says, “Therefore (or, “because Christ is magnified in my weakness”) I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses that the power of Christ might rest on me.” Paul is happy to endure the thorn to experience the strong sustaining hand of our Father. We should not say at this point, “This is a strange man.” Instead we should say, “This is a strange gospel we have.” You mean the goal of the Christian life is not comfort and ease? I won’t have a pain free existence if I’m a child of the King? No. It’s about being so in love with Christ and so stunned by His glory that we become ok with suffering so that we would know the powerful sustaining grace of Christ more. To further impress this upon us, Paul confidently states that he is content with weaknesses, trouble, insults, pain. What’s his reason? “When I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words, God is intentionally and purposefully making Paul weak so He can be seen as strong in Paul’s life. Paul knows he can be confident in His hand to hold him through it. It won’t be easy, but how awesome will it be to feel, know, and behold, God in all His glory, sustaining him. Paul said it great when he said it a few chapters earlier in 2 Cor. 4:17, “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” And then again a few chapters earlier than this in 1:8-9, “…all this happened to us so that we would rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.”

Paul was a confident man, but his confidence wasn’t in himself, the thorn made him acutely aware of that, his confidence was in God.

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