2 Corinthians 12:9a – But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (NIV)
My mind was passively ruminating over a besetting annoyance. Suddenly, my meandering thoughts were intercepted by a pointed question: Can you live with it? It occurred to me, Well, yes, I can live with it. Why not? It's not stopping me from anything! Then, I remembered how the apostle Paul had learned to live with his aggravations. For him, God's grace was sufficient — so why not for me?
Are you troubled by an annoyance which gets "under your skin"? You may as well call it "a thorn in the flesh" as Paul did — because that's how it behaves. It gets stuck in you, just under the surface.
Paul wasn't specific about his "thorn". In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, he does catalogue a list of horrendous menaces: dangerous and deadly perils, beatings, stonings, and other hostilities because of his faith. Our irritations are not likely as dire. It may simply be someone's constant disregard of us.
Really, it's not how big the annoyances are, but how much they control us. They'll rob us of our peace of mind if we let them. Or they become excuses to avoid responsibilities. We let them stop us from moving forward in life and reaching our potential. We may perceive ourselves as victims. That's like seeing imaginary obstacles where there are none — at least, not for God.
Paul had another problem. This one was about himself: his weaknesses. Human limitations made him vulnerable to hostilities. He had no power in himself to overcome them. He didn't even have the cleverness of speech to silence deceivers. The average person would be immobilized with terror by the sense of utter defenselessness as Paul experienced.
Isn't that the real problem with our "thorns in the flesh"? It annoys us that we can't rise above them. We are powerless to eliminate negative forces or even escape from them. We feel exposed in our weakness and fallibility. We find ourselves facing our fleshly mortality. That's a terrifying reality. But isn't that what drives us to God?
When Paul realized that his troubles weren't going to disappear, he decided that with God's grace, he could live with them. This wasn't fatalism or victimhood, but a resolute faith in God's capability.
For us, too, when God's grace operates in our lives, we can live with menacing thorns and even appreciate their usefulness — or rather, God's ability to bring good through them.
Paul continues, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12: 9:b NIV)
I admit, my faith is not nearly that confident. Perhaps you feel the same. For us, then, this prayer seems fitting:
Prayer: Lord, teach me to accept what I cannot change, whether they are things around me or in me. Help me to view irritations as training ground for faith and as a stage for the grand display of Your power. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Wonderful Grace Of Jesus" (Lyrics)