“If the goal is dependence, weakness is a strength.”
That statement fits today’s reading about God’s grace. Let’s try to understand the context of the reading a little better.
Believers in Corinth had become critical of the apostle Paul. Other so-called “apostles” had recently cast doubt on Paul’s ministry. Consequently, Paul defended his apostleship in this letter by outlining some of his experiences. He “boasted” in the suffering he had received as an apostle. You name it…from flogging to the lack of food, from shipwreck on the Mediterranean to personal threats on his life…he had experienced it (11:21-33). But Paul also described a glorious experience of witnessing the sights and sounds of paradise (12:1-5). What an amazing experience that must have been!
To keep him from boasting in that experience, God allowed Paul to have a “thorn in the flesh.” Many theologians have hypothesized about what that thorn was. (Some believe it was a problem with his eyesight.) Still, he wasn’t specific about what that thorn was. The thorn wasn’t a sin, but it was definitely something that was uncomfortable and distracting.
Most people I know are like Paul in that they have a “thorn” that they would wish away if they could. Perhaps it is a health issue or another life reality that they cannot change by themselves. In fact, like Paul, they have probably even prayed repeatedly about it, asking God to remove it.
But, just as Paul learned, we too must recognize that God doesn’t always swoop in to remove the thorns of our lives. If He doesn’t remove the painful thorns, though, He does provide sustaining grace. Paul described that grace as “sufficient.” In other words, it was adequate for the situation. He described it as “powerful” in the face of weakness. Paul went so far as to say that weakness, adversity, and opposition were desired experiences that he could “delight in.” It was in the face of those difficulties, in fact, that he experienced the strength of Christ.
Indeed, weakness and adversity can be to our advantage. If we allow them to create within us a dependence on God and His grace, we will discover strength that we will not otherwise experience. In what ways do you need to express your dependence? In so doing, you will find His grace to be your strength.