There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9
Paul was in agony! This thing that he called a ‘thorn’ was not a small thing. He implored God to take it away—repeatedly! It’s obvious from many accounts that Paul was no wimp, but this thing really messed up his life. I’ve read that the word translated ‘thorn’ was also used for ‘tent stake.’ We’re not talking about a little jab from a thistle, but a big gash from a spike!
However, instead of granting Paul’s request, God simply informed him that he could take it, that God would give him the grace he needed to endure. And God told Paul that power is shown most clearly in the midst of weakness. We can think of a mountain lion crouched over its prey—a picture of absolute power and complete helplessness. But on the contrary, picture a horrendous, inhumane situation where it seems that nothing good could possibly emerge, and realize that God often floods His incredible grace over exactly such circumstances. God sometimes uses unspeakable horrors to implement His indescribable grace. Power shows all the more mightily when one is powerless.
And that brings us to a concept that is truly hard to grasp. God’s perfect plan includes a lot of imperfections. On purpose. God never slacks or loses His grip. He allows these seeming lapses, these challenges; He allows us to hurt and be weak, so that His power will show more brilliantly!
It’s like a Truth Window.
My niece and her husband have built a home using stacked straw bales for the walls.
This is an unusual but interesting method of construction. The straw is generally covered, inside and out, with stucco or plaster, so there is no evidence of the straw construction once the house is complete. Thus it has become a tradition to leave a ‘truth window’ in straw bale houses so that the builder can prove that it is indeed made of straw.
Most windows are for the purpose of looking out, but the Truth Window is all about looking in. It shows the inside, what the wall is truly made of.
The ‘thorns’ that God puts into our lives are Truth Windows. They reveal that, even though we may seem to have our lives under control, it is only God who in fact has it all together. My weakness, my helplessness, is the place where God’s power and grace is most vividly expressed.
So yes, Lord, I will try to boast of my weakness. Because in this inside-out, upside down world in which we live, it is there—in the middle of my ugliness, my hopelessness, my squalor—that YOU show your might!