September 23, 2018 - Inscriptions From The Heart
September 23, 2018
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me-to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 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. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NASB
For those of you who don't know, my husband of two months has an inflammatory bowel disease called Crohn's that he was diagnosed with back in high school. When I first met him, he was not taking any medication for it as he had just moved to Edmonton from Toronto and was not seeing a specialist here. In the early days of our dating, there would be times when I would helplessly sit back while he struggled with the pain of his Crohn's after a meal; I couldn't even rub his back as that touch would make the abdominal pain worse. His uncontrolled pain went on for about a year until finally, thanks be to God, he was put under the care of a gastroenterologist at the University of Alberta. By God's grace, the medication that my husband was put on has helped to control his Crohn's and he is basically in remission now.
With this month's sermon theme in mind, I asked my husband if he would want God to completely heal him of his Crohn's. His response was not surprising in that he said, of course he would want it to be gone. He followed that, though, with, “But if He doesn't, I'm ok with that too.” His answer reminded me of Paul writing to the Corinthians about his “thorn in the flesh.” Scholars are not sure exactly what the thorn was; it could have been a physical, spiritual, or emotional affliction; some even suggest it was a person who caused him a lot of harm. Despite what it specifically was, Paul was troubled enough by it to implore God (implore meaning beg Him earnestly or desperately) to take it away from him. Yet, God did not answer exactly the way Paul desired but rather by wisdom that could only come from Him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Now, this is Paul we're talking about. I think I could safely guess that Paul wanted God to remove the thorn from his flesh so that he had more power to go and serve God among the Gentiles. Despite Paul's obvious love for God, though, he was still aware of his sinful nature and the lure of pride in his heart. He knew that God probably gave him a weakness so that he wouldn't be tempted to rely on his own power to serve Him or to become proud of the fact that God was using him so mightily amongst the Gentiles. He still asked to be freed from it, but when God said no, he accepted it as the perfect will of his Father who “works all things for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8:28).
This leads us to reflect on the various “thorns” in our flesh as followers of Christ. We have to sincerely ask ourselves: Why do I want God to remove this from me? and, How am I going to respond if God doesn't? I hope and pray that each of us get to the point in our journey with Christ that we want to be healed in body, mind, and spirit for His glory alone and for the advancement of His kingdom, and that we be content with our weaknesses and difficulties if He chooses not to heal. For in God's ironic yet perfect wisdom: When we are weak, then He is strong.