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And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV
The Thorn of Weakness
What was the greatest moment of joy in your life? Think about it. I bet you felt filled with strength, joy, and peace. Now, how did you determine what that moment was? Did you compare it to some of your weakest moments?
Paul writes this verse in the context of lamenting about the ‘thorn in his flesh’. Theologians have debated, but no one knows exactly, what that thorn was. Really, the specifics of a person’s ‘thorn’, is only important to them; and to God.
Our thorns (weaknesses) are important to us because of our pride. Our thorns can turn us inward, and separate us from God. But our weaknesses also help us, they help us turn toward each other. And, return us to our Lord.
Our weaknesses are important to God because they make us pliable enough for God to perfect. Isn’t it a shame that we often turn to God only after we become so broken? Or is it?
When we turn to God, we build our relationship with Him. As we choose to be with our God, God ‘works’ our weaknesses to strengthen His Purpose. We become God’s chosen witnesses, revealing His strength and message to the world.
Our false sense of strength
One morning on my way to college, I was in a car accident. I was driving along, listening to music when a drunk driver pulled out of a parking lot and hit my car. When I got out of the hospital, my brother made me drive his car home. I was terrified.
“If you don’t drive now, you never will,” he said.
He was probably right.
It was one of the longest drives I’ve ever taken. Suddenly, it was as if every car was pulling out toward me. I was hyper-sensitive to anyone and everything surrounding my vehicle. By the time we arrived home, my fingers hurt from gripping the steering wheel and my head hurt from the stress and fear. I was weak and exhausted.
I had lost my false sense of security.
Even though we are God’s people, we are human. This means we are prone to periodically fooling ourselves, about everything; about our safety or our strength. We want to believe we are strong and attribute our strength to our own making. We misplace the origins of our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. This misconception leads us to a flawed perception of God, and about who is in control of our life.
God doesn’t fix the unbroken. Brokenness brings us to reality. His perfection (strength) comes by way of using our flaws to heal the world. Our weaknesses become opportunities for God to align us with His purpose.
Perfect in Weakness
The Bible tells us about all the people God used to carry His message to the world. In them, we find a repeating pattern. Like us, they were broken (weak), in pain, crippled with afflictions, in circumstances beyond their control, loving people who hurt them, at a complete loss, or backed into a corner. God used these desperate but faithful souls to show how He not only overcomes, He glorifies.
Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David, Joseph, Esther and Job, Peter, Paul, Thomas and Stephen, were all afflicted with and troubled by their weaknesses.
When I think of these people, I can identify with them because I, too, am flawed, fearful, and weak. Yet, we think of them as strong.
They trusted God to use them to His glory. At their worst, they chose to obey God who revealed them, and their afflictions, to all the world. Yet these people were not witnesses of their own imperfections, they were models of God’s perfection.
My Strength is Made Perfect in Your Weakness
Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus shows us a weak man, blinded, broken, and gifted with a great opportunity!
I can imagine people saying, “Oh my, what happened to Paul the zealot…” And I can imagine many more remarking, “Oh my! Look what’s HAPPENED to Paul the zealot!” Paul’s life was turned upside down so that God could right it.
Paul gets it. The ‘weaker’ Paul was, the more he revealed his ‘thorn’, the more God used him. As he grew in Christ, Paul decided to not only exhibit his thorns and reveal his weaknesses, he decided to boast about his imperfections. Paul understood the symbiotic relationship between the strength of God and the weakness of man. Consequently, Paul became one of the strongest examples of what God’s powerful transformation can do in our lives. Paul’s exposure glorified God and converted new Christians to the early church. Wow!
When we read Paul’s writings and see his work, we know him to be one of the most powerfully-used men in the New Testament. We’ve all said, “If I can do it, so can you.” If Paul were here, I’m sure he would speak a similar sentiment.
I don’t know a soul who likes to be broken, admit mistakes, feel great pain, or be weak. The question becomes can you admit your thorns so that God can pluck them from you and use them for His glory?
Pray with me.
I am weak Lord. I know that in my weakness, You are strong. Take my weaknesses Lord, and use me as You will to reveal Your Strength. It’s what I’m here for. In Jesus’ name we pray… Amen.