My Journal for Today: “Why all the problems, Lord?” … Ever voice such a prayer? Maybe you haven’t voiced it … but maybe you have felt like that and questioned God’s motives in engineering or allowing the difficulties/circumstances in your life. Right now in my life, I really identify with Paul’s painful “thorn” in today’s passage, because I’m going through rehab following a full hip replacement; and it’s a humbling experience – to say the least. Perhaps you’ve had some physical and/or emotional pain which has humbled you in your life.
The answer to our quandary or attitude block about the physical/emotional/spiritual pain which God allows in our lives just might be found in the passage that is our focus today. The Apostle Paul obviously had a special relationship with the Lord, especially having been blessed by personal confrontation and/or visitation from Jesus as well as some vision unto heaven. You can read of some type of a personal tour of heaven in 2nd Cor. 12: 1 – 4 …
SCRIPTURE: 2nd Cor. 12: 1 – 4 ... I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.
Note that it is highly likely, according to scholars, that “the man” to whom Paul refers in this passage in the third person is himself. And I think it’s easy to see that the Apostle is trying to show his readers (and that would include you and me) that mountain-top spiritual experiences tend to make one prideful. And Paul, in today’s passage, shows that God had to “take him (Paul) down a notch” in the realm of personal humility so that He (God) could bless Paul with His grace. And Paul finally got it … even after praying diligently that God lift the “thorn” from his own flesh (whatever that condition was).
We all have “thorns” in our life. Some are physical maladies like I’m going through presently; others might be emotional, habitual, or circumstantial; but as believers, we must know that God is in those circumstances or that “thorn,” whatever it must be. God has said as much in His word – that He would never forsake us (see both the OT – Deut. 31: 6 – and the NT – Heb. 13: 5). And like Paul, it’s okay to pray fervently to God for the deliverance of the pain or anguish of any malady, trial, or situation. Jesus did that in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was to have the thorn of all thorns visited upon Him on the cross. But it may be the case, as it was for Paul and Jesus, that God will not see fit to lift the thorn which causes us so much pain. And if it is to help us be humble enough to receive His grace, it is well worth the agony of that “thorn” to be able to receive God’s grace and His strength in our weakness.
As I’ve stated in the past, this highlighted passage of scripture today is one of my “favorites,” both personally and for use in ministry. I think all Christians would agree that we desire to have all of God’s grace that He’s willing to pour into our lives – even if we don’t deserve it. And from this passage, as well as others like James 4: 6 and 1st Peter 5: 6 [from Prov. 3: 34] , we know that “… God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore, even if it takes God allowing Satan to perpetrate pain upon us to keep us humble, as was Paul’s challenge, it is worth it so that we might have access to God’s amazing seeking, saving, and sanctifying grace! Actually, wasn’t the entire book of Job, the oldest book in the Bible, about this subject?
All of this substantiates the truth of Paul’s wondrous claim in Romans 8: 28 … that all things do work together for good for those who are “the called” according to Christ’s purpose; and I pray that I will always be able to see God’s grace awaiting me in the challenges which beset me – and those for you as well. I certainly needed to re-learn this lesson today; … how about you?
My Prayer Today: Lord, I beg You to pour Your grace into my life, especially into my weaknesses so that Your strength will be seen by all. Amen