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 12:8-11
I have at least four friends that are simultaneously being confronted with insurmountable problems – stories we just don’t share with many others because of the pain and the lack of control we feel. Even in the passage above, the great Paul is responding to the pain of an unidentified “thorn in the flesh.”
How do we respond when we face the impossible? Panic, fear, desperation? When Paul faced the persistent pain of an undefined “thorn in the flesh”, he responded by praying to the Lord. Scripture tells us that he prayed three times – not three quick prayers as he nodded off to sleep. Based on what we know of Paul, it was likely that he prayed persistently and with passion and so he received an answer. Paul’s impossible thorn was to be a reminder that Christ’s power is maximized in weakness. While Paul was not looking for trouble, “for the sake of Christ” he was “content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Read through that list again. Weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities? Paul’s perspective was quite different than ours, right? Paul’s effectiveness as a follower of Christ wasn’t hampered by his pain because he could see beyond his momentary problems through his reliance on the grace that was enough.
We can learn from Paul’s commitment to call out to God when faced with a “thorn” and we can learn from his reliance on God’s strength and not his own. That is trust defined.