I am content with weaknesses, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. Who can say such a thing? From a worldly standpoint, it is insane. It was Paul that said it and it is useful to look at Paul’s circumstances at the time of making such an outlandish statement.
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Christians in Pakistan are truly living as Christians despite intense persecution.
To put this Scripture passage in context, Paul tells us of his experience of being taken by God into the heavens where it would be easy to become conceited. Why? “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations“ he was given and where “he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” This was why he was given a thorn in the flesh. But what was that thorn in the flesh? It was “a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.”. For us, it should be remembered that whenever we are being obedient to God’s call that we can expect messengers of Satan to harass us. Persecution comes with the territory of being an obedient Christian.
Paul discloses this experience not so that we should focus on the attack; we are to focus on Jesus’s words instead. The Lord’s revelatory word of grace to Paul becomes the apostle’s reason for living – to proclaim the gospel. He can now “boast” in the weaknesses of his many sufferings and persecutions, knowing that such weakness brings on the power of the Holy Spirit to enable him to do what God has for him to do (2 Corinthians 12:9–10). He also discloses this experience as a way to help us understand that God does use Satan and his demons for his purposes particularly to teach us that a humble and contrite heart is what He desires.
Lessons to Be Learned from the “Thorn” in the Flesh
- Sometimes our most blissful experiences with the Lord follow, precede, or are accompanied by hardships and suffering.
- The Lord says, “no” to Paul’s request to remove the thorn. Do we recognize that sometimes God’s answer to our prayers may be “no”? And that he might have a higher purpose for us in our predicament, as he did Paul?
- The Lord also promises: “my grace is sufficient for you.” Despite our suffering, God is with us to comfort us, just as he was with Paul despite all his hardships and experiencing persecution.
- Like Paul, the Lord may want us to learn that there is strength and power in humility, weakness, and suffering. As Paul says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”