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.”
Difficulties, disappointments, failure, and weakness are all inevitable in life. But have you ever considered the possibility that these limitations may be the key to usefulness in the service of Christ? We often find ourselves saying or thinking something like “If I wasn’t like this, or if my circumstances were different, or if I was healthier or in better shape, then God could and would better use me.” It is easy to wish we could be someone we’re not, instead of believing what the Bible says: that God formed us purposefully, divinely, and intricately in our mother’s womb and has overseen each of our days since then (Psalm 139:13), making and molding each of us as a unique individual.
When we doubt our worth, Satan is quick to encourage us to question the integrity of God’s character and promises. Indeed, Paul calls his weakness, his thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan. Why? Because Satan had used it to bring about doubt in Paul: Why you, Paul? Why didn’t Peter have this thorn? Wouldn’t your ministry be more effective without it? God’s not coming through for you, is He? But our heavenly Father knows best, and He is painting on a far bigger canvas. His purpose is not to make our journey through life pleasurable or to make all our dreams come true. His purpose for us is far grander: to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
John Berridge, an 18th-century preacher, observed, “A Christian never falls asleep in the fire or in the water, but grows drowsy in the sunshine.” We grow too comfortable, too self-reliant, when life is easy and our strengths are apparent. And so God graciously gives us thorns to wake us up.
When God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” He didn’t change Paul’s pain. He changed his perspective. Paul was able to quit focusing on his weakness and begin appreciating the gift that came through it: Christ’s own strength. The thorn suddenly became a rose: something redemptively given instead of something only unwanted. God makes even Satan’s insinuations work for our good, causing us to turn to Christ in childlike and prayerful dependence upon His promises.
The things about ourselves that we want to run from, hide from, or cover up are the very things that could suddenly open the door to phenomenal ministry. Have you considered this truth? Have you considered the possibility that your limitations, your disappointments, and your weaknesses are not detriments to effectiveness but true assets, as they bring you to lean on His strength? Do not see your weakness as an obstacle to serving God but as an opportunity for it.
2 Corinthians 4:7-18
1 John Berridge to Samuel Wilks, Everton, August 16, 1774, in The Works of the Rev. John Berridge, ed. Richard Whittingham (Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., 1838), p 396.
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg