Learning From Adversity
What are we to do with our pain when, despite our pleading, God won’t remove it? He knows we’re hurting but does nothing. How can He be a God of love yet not come to our aid?
Today’s passage gives us intimate insight into a very painful event in Paul’s life. We don’t know exactly what the “thorn in the flesh” was, but his account of what he learned through that experience is an amazing example of what God wants to teach us through adversity.
• First of all, God is sovereign over the situation. Ultimately, He is the one who allowed the thorn and the one with the power to remove it.
• Second, God prioritizes the spiritual. Paul wanted physical relief, but the Lord was working for his spiritual good. The thorn was a protection against pride, which would have seriously hindered Paul’s ministry and corrupted his character. Whatever God allows to afflict believers is designed to protect them from sin, produce holiness, and equip them for faithful service to Christ.
• Third, God’s grace is sufficient. The Lord didn’t remove the pain but gave Paul both the grace to endure it and strength in his weakness. If God doesn’t provide a way out, He will provide a way through.
Once we understand the Lord’s sovereignty, priorities, and sufficiency, we can respond to our afflictions as Paul did—with gladness. When Christ’s strength is perfected in us, we can be content in whatever difficulties God allows in our life. The Lord’s unwillingness to give us relief is not neglect. Rather, it is evidence of His surpassing love, which seeks our eternal good.