April 18, 2021
1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know– God knows. 3 And I know that this man– whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:1-10 NIV)
Have you ever heard someone say that God will never give us more than we can handle? I understand the sentiment behind this. We believe that God is for us and I am confident that this is true. The challenge is that we begin to believe that God being for us means that God will work to bring us whatever we think we need. Our sinful sense of entitlement leads to our being disappointed with God when we encounter difficulty that is beyond us.
When we feel we are at the end of our rope I think we are right where a God who is for us wants us to be. What God wants us to do is to let go of the rope and fall into His arms. There are many things we cannot handle. There is nothing that God cannot handle. My mother used to tell me that as a small child I would often say, “I can do it myself.” I would like to think I am slowly growing out of this. What I know is the only progress I have made has been due to circumstances that were beyond my control and beyond my ability to fix.
My faith heroes are not the Christian celebrities who everyone knows. My faith heroes are the people who struggle with chronic pain or disability while serving God and loving people with joy every day of their lives. These people have learned not to focus on their limits, but instead to focus on God’s limitlessness.
I struggle with this. I have many weaknesses, but if I were to boast about them it would be because I desired for attention to be focused on me. God’s desire is that His power displayed in our weakness would draw people to Him.
I just finished a book entitled Surprised by Paradox. The author explored four different paradoxes that exist in the Bible. The one that caught my attention was lament. Lament is the praise that flows out of expressing deep grief and hurt to God. The book of Psalms is full of lament and I think Paul is expressing lament in this portion of his letter. Lament does not deny the pain and Paul does not hide his desire that the thorn go away. Instead, lament recognizes the pain and voices the pain while all the time acknowledging that God is greater than the pain. Without acknowledging God’s power and comfort lament becomes a pity party. With praise for God our suffering does not go away and the pity party we were going to throw is transformed into worship.