“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.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 12:7-10, ESV)
We pray, we plead that things would change. That the thorn keeping us from being conceited would be taken away. But for Paul, and encounter with Christ eases his pleading and he learns that Christ’s grace is sufficient for him. Some of my friends might suggest that Paul gave up too easy. That he didn’t “pray through” and get his blessing. Maybe he could have prayed a shape around the problem and been relentless in his petition until God be moved to grant the request (for his glory of course). But what does Paul miss if he does that? “My power is made perfect in weakness.” The sufficiency of Christ is perfected in our weakness. As we are weak the power of Christ rests upon us. Do we get that?
There are plenty of men, and woman, that will sell you a line about breakthrough and being strong. Very few will encourage you to embrace your weakness. Paul is modeling for us joyful weakness. It is not that he is simply content but he is boasting and overjoyed about his “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” because when he is weak he is actually strong in Christ. That might not make sense to us. And if it doesn’t, perhaps it is that we are thinking of ourselves too much.
How was Paul able to make sense of this idea of joyful weakness and real strength? He was oriented rightly in pursuing Christ’s glory, Christ’s power. “For the sake of Christ” is his basis for pleading; it is his basis for enduring. Is it our basis? Are we embracing our weakness for the sake of Christ? Not so we “get ours” but so that we will get Jesus and his perfect power?
Insult me. Persecute me. Gloat over my weakness. I have Christ. He is sufficient and more than enough for me. And it is for his sake that I live with joy. When I am weak, in him I am strong.