There are things about myself that I really don't like.
No, it's not the facial hairs I have to routinely pluck (all the while wondering how awesome my mustache will be when I'm 60), how frizzy my hair can get, or the muffin top at my middle, (though, yes, those annoy me!) But, no, those aren't my biggest problems.
What I really despise is the inside ugly. My pride is mocked and maimed by the daily manifestations of my chronic sin patterns: concern with what others think, arrogant and judgmental thoughts, a quick temper.
Those have been on my mind lately, (by God's grace) not really in a self-loathing kind of way - I sure am thankful Jesus died for all that sin! But more in a, it-sure-seems-like-it's-getting-worse,-what-am-I-to-do!, kind of way.
This week, my Bible reading schedule had me in 2 Corinthians, and God met me with His word. Specifically these words of Paul, chapter 12, verses 7-10.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me 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.
Paul was God's chosen man to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. As far as up-bringing, he had a lot to brag about. But the only thing he would boast in, was the Lord. Even so, here he mentions the mysterious "thorn in his flesh," which I believe has kept scholars guessing through the centuries. God gave it to him, to keep [him] from becoming conceited.
He wanted Paul to rely on His grace alone.
According to God's logic, Paul needed that weakness.
That got me thinking about my own weaknesses, particularly the nasty sins that Satan can use to pull me away from grace, to taunt me into believing God neither loves me nor forgives my sin, luring me into the realm of grace-earning rather than grace-receiving.
Paul's affliction could have been anything, I suppose: physical, mental, spiritual, relational, or emotional. But God was determined to use it in his life to demonstrate His power through a man's weakness, because His grace is sufficient.
Because His grace is sufficient.
In thinking that through, I pondered my own "thorns": my sometimes-debilitating need to please people, my proud, hurtful, judgmental thoughts, my quick temper. And I wonder, Lord, will you demonstrate your power in my weakness? You don't even need to take this away from me - which is what I've always wanted in the past - if you'll show your power in my weakness, if somehow, I can be a mouthpiece of righteousness and an instrument of grace and peace in this world, despite all of my ugliness. Would you be so gracious? Oh yeah, that's kind of what you do.
So, weakness. When you hear that word, what do you think of first? Where might you be challenged to hear and believe the Lord when he says:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
And how will that change what you boast about?
Deep thoughts for the weekend ahead. I hope you and yours have a good one!