“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 12:10, NIV).
There is no doubt about it. The Apostle Paul was a man who had been undeniably changed and lived a passionate and shameless love for Jesus. Writing a great portion of the New Testament and being responsible for much of Church and Christian theology, it would be easy to see Paul as almost perfect. And yet, Paul was human, imperfect, flawed, and struggled through much of the same emotions and circumstances as those to whom he was writing. Paul was honest about himself and about the issues that were within him that he continued to face off with, even while on the journey of his own faith and ministry. Verse 7 shows that Paul was inflicted with some variety of pain. Scholars continue to debate whether it was physical, situational, or emotional. But what is more important than the ‘what’ he faced, is the ‘why’ he faced it. “So that I may not become conceited…” Paul recognized that in his own life, the life of a missionary, preacher, apostle, and early church father, there were areas where pride still attempted to lurk and live. Rather than a repeal of the circumstance, Jesus replaced the potential fear with a perpetual grace. Paul responded to that grace in delight.
Grace is a reminder that no matter what you face, you do not face it alone, nor do you face it unequipped. Grace is a continued reminder of the life you have in Christ even when it feels as though the very life is being extracted from your being. It was the grace of God that gave Paul the confidence that he was not alone, that he could continue in the call in which Jesus had placed on his life. He knew that with every pain of weakness in himself, there was the grace and strength of Jesus to carry him through. Paul’s pride was a potential roadblock to the destiny calling to which Paul was called. God used the “Nothing Wasted” moments of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and the pride that tried to hide within him, to showcase the life-power of His grace.
As I look through the pages of my own life, even pages found much closer to the present, I can relate to Paul’s prayer and plea for God to change certain things. There are prayers that I have prayed for provision that have not been answered in the way that I have preferred or expected. There are breakthroughs in my family that I have not seen come to pass in the timing that well serve the cries of my comfort. There are inward struggles that I have cried out for God to eradicate or change miraculously that still exist. But what I have received, and am reminded by this window into Paul’s world, is the grace of God to lead me where my pride would rather distract me. God knows me better than I know myself. It is why he has placed the people in my life, even those that seem to delight in rubbing me the wrong way. I thank God for them. It is them that God uses to challenge and confront the pride that hides and lurks inside of me. I may not see it, but I know that Jesus does.
The love of Jesus for me is so great that He allows moments that I would rather pray away to remain and to do a work under His close supervision. He will use what Satan has crafted to be the tool of my destruction in order to repeal the pride and replace it with a greater knowledge and awareness of His grace. I will continue to pray for miracles and breakthroughs, but I will continue to look to Him for the grace and strength to continue even when I don’t see or receive the answers I thought I had wanted. What I want more than anything is His grace to be revealed in me and through my life. I know that there is nothing wasted in Him. His grace IS sufficient for me. His strength IS made perfect in and through every weakness, failure, disappointment, discouragement, and missed expectation.
Lord, I thank You that there is NOTHING that is too big for You. I am still forever convinced that You are the God that hears prayers, answers prayers, and performs miracles. I also recognize that You are the Sovereign God. You hear what I don’t hear, see what I don’t see, and know what I don’t know. I thank You that You are above both my understanding and the limitations of my understanding. I continue to call out to You and to trust You. Thank You for Your divine and timely grace. Lord, I know that I can trust in You in all things. There are times when what I pray to see is not what You choose to let me see. But in all things, my greatest desire is to see You. My flesh prefers to see You in the miracles, but I know Your desire is for me to also see You in the mess. I know that You are with me. I will choose to trust and rely on You in every circumstance regardless of how I see or interpret Your answers to my prayers. You are my strength. Your grace IS my confidence and my life. I thank You, Jesus. In Your Name, AMEN.