The wisdom of God in suffering:
God uses suffering to teach dependency.
Reach 2 Corinthians 12:1-11
“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Paul was given a privilege that few humans have ever been given while still alive on this earth. He had been given the unparalled honor of having a glimpse into the throne room of heaven. Such a privilege, coupled with his calling as an apostle, could easily have resulted in Paul gaining a superior view of himself. In the early church few could match Paul’s theological training and insight. Consequently, it would have been easy for Paul to fall prey to the subtle danger of self-importance and self-reliance.
In order to prevent this, God used the voice of suffering to keep Paul from becoming focused upon himself rather than the grace of God operating through him. What the proverbial “thorn in the flesh” was, has been widely speculated. It may have been a physical weakness (some have suggested malaria, others poor eyesight) or it may have been a particular spiritual struggle or temptation that Paul could not gain full victory over. Whatever it was, it caused sufficient turmoil that Paul saw it as a hindrance to his life and ministry and so he asked three times for its removal. However, rather than providing Paul relief, God made it clear that it was to serve as a continual reminder that Paul was to rest in the grace of God and recognize that it is in his weakness that God’s power is most evident.
There is nothing more helpless than facing circumstances that our outside of our control. We like to be self-sufficient, controlling our own destiny and determining our own fate. But when we face relentless struggles in our life it only serves to remind us how powerless we really are. We have the power build great cities and tame nuclear fission but stand powerless in the face of an invisible virus that can paralyze the world. Paul came to realize that his “thorn in the flesh” was not a destroyer in his life, but a teacher. It taught him that the sufficiency of Christ, not his circumstances, governed his sense of contentment. The suffering and trials we face remind us that we bring nothing to the table, that we are not wise enough to determine what is right and wrong, we are not powerful enough to control our destiny, we are not good enough to guarantee our own eternal salvation. When we face the struggles of life, we learn that we are completely reliant upon God’s empowerment to live life successfully and accomplish anything of eternal value. To really discover life, we must learn that true success and meaning in life is not attained through our own skills, talents, wisdom and strength, but by becoming completely dependent upon the one who strengthens us to accomplish all things. Today ask God to help you become more dependent upon him, asking him to remove the one thing that we least want to give up: Our self-sufficiency.