“Why won’t God heal me? Doesn’t he love me?” Perhaps you’ve asked similar questions. Maybe you’ve been frustrated because God didn’t answer a prayer the way you had hoped. Could it be that he is using those very difficulties to keep you dependent on him? Like placing sparkling diamonds on black velvet, our human weakness provides a contrasting backdrop against which God’s power can be displayed.
Paul was faced with such a dilemma. He came from the best family line, studied at the best schools and encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. He experienced revelations from God. It would have been easy for him to be proud. But Paul suffered a thorn in the flesh. Three times Paul asked God to remove his thorn. Three times God said no. Did that mean God didn’t love Paul? Absolutely not! It simply meant that God decided to empower Paul despite his thorn, to keep Paul dependent on God’s strength. God proved to Paul that God’s power was made perfect in Paul’s weakness.
Paul didn’t tell his readers the nature of his thorn. If he had, we might be able to dismiss his words as not applying to us. Because he did not, we can identify with him—and wonder what our own thorns are. Is it a chronic illness, a debilitating disease we’ve suffered with or a painful injury we’ve sustained? Is it a chemical depression or bipolar illness? Is it cancer or chronic fatigue?
All of these “thorns” are hard to live with, especially if we’ve asked repeatedly for healing. They can make us feel weak and spiritually deficient. They can make us feel isolated, undeserving and ineffective. They can cause us to become self-absorbed and self-pitying. But there is another way to look at them: We can offer our illness or disability sacrificially to God and allow it to keep us on our knees, asking God for strength. We can allow God’s love and power to push us through difficult and painful times, to use our “thorns” to make us more tenderhearted toward others. We can see them as the black velvet against which God’s grace glitters.
Memorize God’s words to Paul, and every time you are tempted to feel that your “thorn” disqualifies you from God’s work, remember them: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
What would you say is your particular “thorn in the flesh”?
How might you have grown prideful had it not been for this “thorn”?
How has God proven himself strong on your behalf?
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”