“‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen… Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (MSG)
Currently, the topic of suffering and the role in plays in the believer’s life is the topic of the Sunday evening Bible study I’m attending. For the believer, suffering is about grace. Grace is what Galatians is all about. That’s how this is all going to connect.
This was the text for last evening’s study. The pastor began by asking volunteers to share an affliction that he or she lived with or would not go away. I’ve had some affliction in my life. The first thing that came to mind was my first husband—his illness was also my affliction, and it didn’t go away until he died in spite of our prayers.
As I pondered that, I realized that, perhaps, my biggest affliction is simply being me.
Paul wrote about his reason to be proud—he went into heaven and came back to earth. Paul had legitimate bragging rights. He was a man who was in touch with his tendency to be self-sufficient. Paul was able to give you a list of reasons to brag—he was an accomplished man.
Paul also understood the reason for the “thorn” God gave to him. Paul admits the purpose was to keep him humble. The Message paraphrases the word Paul used this way:
“I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.”
As I read and re-read that scripture last night—it was the thorn that caught my attention. I’m an operating room nurse. In the ten years I’ve worked in the OR, no one has come for the surgical removal of a thorn—big chunks of wood, yes, but a sliver? No.
Paul intentionally used the term “thorn.”
Slivers aren’t life threatening. They are annoying. Slivers can be painful—eventually they will make you aware of their presence. Slivers are little—sometimes you don’t even know how you got one until it becomes inflamed. One thing is true; you can live with a sliver in your finger.
I know to run to God with my big problems. What about the problem of me? Am I my own “thorn”?
Is that why Paul called the Galatians names when they abandoned the Gospel of Grace?
Father, thank You for Your grace. As I read Your word, I’m forced to realize I need Your grace more than I want to admit. Lavish Your grace on me—in my everyday “thorn” experiences. Teach me to rely completely on Your love and grace.