I recently had the amazing privilege of staying a night at a dear friend’s house…she and her husband lived in Cortez and attended and served faithfully at Rock Springs…and, for economic reasons, had to move to another town, thankfully still in Colorado. I have missed them both immeasurably. So this was a God-gift to get to spend some time with them both.
My friend and I had a chance to talk one-on-one for a while. I knew she had had trouble with her back before she moved away, but it has become worse and is relatively untreatable except through pain meds, which she will not take because she doesn’t like the side effects. So she does all she can to deal with the pain. It is a degenerative condition and will only get worse with time.
But, in spite of the pain and discomfort, she carries on with an amazing attitude of joy and peace, being as active as she can and continuing to minister to so many, especially to young single moms. She is a treasure and I count it a JOY to consider her one of my closest friends (even if she is almost old enough to be my mom.)
We were discussing her ailment the morning before i left, and she said she views her back pain as a reminder that she’s not “all that and a bag of chips” after all. It reminds her that it is not her that is in control, but God…and that He uses her in spite of her pain. And she finds joy in that.
It reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”…the thing that God allowed in his life to keep him from thinking he was “all that and a bag of chips.”
In 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10, Paul says “…in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 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.”
You know what? We have no idea what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. SO MANY PEOPLE have speculated what they think it was…”an eye problem”…”a nagging wife”… “migraines”…”ear aches”…but actually, none of us has any idea what it really was. All we know is that it was painful to him…physically, emotionally or spiritually.
I believe that Paul didn’t reveal the true source of his pain (or God instructed him to keep it secret) because…what if we knew? What if he had told us the exact cause of his pain or distraction? We most likely would have used our armchair counseling to tell him that he needed to develop a positive attitude about his “thorn”…or that if he just had “more faith,” he could overcome this affliction. Or we would have told him he just needed a strong support group around him to help him deal with it. Or we would tell him that if he just took this-or-that medication or applied this specific essential oil, it would help him overcome the effects of his affliction.
But I have a different idea. I think I know exactly what would have happened (because I do this very thing)…you and I would have started comparing HIS thorn to OUR thorn.
As I told my friend, it is so easy to compare and contrast between ourselves. I could look at my friend and her severe back pain and I could say, “Well, at least I don’t have to deal with THAT! All I have to deal with is….(fill in the blank)” Or I could say, “You think back pain is a problem? You should experience my (fill in the blank) for a while…back pain would be the least of your concerns.”
Comparing and contrasting and “measuring against each other” has never been good form with God. It’s so easy to do…but we need to STOP IT!! Just because it’s not YOUR thorn doesn’t mean it’s not a thorn to someone else. We are each given our own thorn in the flesh to keep us from thinking we’re “all that and a bag of chips”. We are all faced with a limitation that should keep us from “becoming conceited”…because it’s not at all about US, but it is all about GOD. And if it takes a “thorn” in our lives to keep us humble and grounded, you can bet your sweet bippy that God is gonna keep it there.
But to me, the most important part of that passage in 2 Corinthians is this part…“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Whatever MY thorn is…whatever YOUR thorn is…if God has not removed it from our lives, then it has a purpose. And His grace is SUFFICIENT!
Grace is the favor and love of God in action. It means He loves us and is pleased by us…NO MATTER WHAT! God tells us, “My love is enough for you.” AND IT IS!!