Remember summer break when you were in school? The butterflies in your stomach as the days got closer, movies you watched in class as teachers ran out of stuff to teach, and getting to wear shorts to class everyday told you summer was coming. It was awesome!
Of course in grownup world we don’t get a 3 month break from our jobs. The working world doesn’t see the benefit from 90 days of no work and all play, but here’s hoping things change!
Yet there are other things that we can never check out on aren’t there? The things in our life where shutting them down or ignoring them for a few months just isn’t an option.
No matter how “good” things may be in our life there are still times that are just hard and seem unmovable. People get sick, jobs get lost, kids act out, marriages grow colder, bills get higher, and on and on it goes.
Sometimes these things are manageable. You can weather the storm and after a while things level off, but sometimes these hard times linger. They become less of a slightly runny nose to a full on hacking cough that keeps you up at night.
And even though we know God has a better future for us and we memorize the words of Paul when he says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17), it still doesn’t make our trouble seem momentary or light. In fact sometimes the trouble feels down right heavy and never ending. You get to the point in your spirit when you feel like asking “will this ever end?”
It almost feels like your life is in a constant state of spiritual humidity and, just like a storm cloud, at some point it has to release the tension or you’ll explode. It has to rain, it has to give up, it has to send relief, and it has to get better.
It’s in these moments of spiritual humidity that we feel may even feel Paul is being flippant and arrogant to talk about challenges as light and momentary.
- “How could he possibly know what it’s like to be going through a divorce?”
- “Does he know what it’s like to be turned down for job after job after job?”
- “When was the last time he had a daughter going down the wrong path fast?”
We really only say these things to strengthen our position of selfishness. If we can convince our self that no one knows what it’s like to be us or that we are on our own island of struggle then we can continue to complain and champion the “Woe is me” life we live in.
The truth is that Paul isn’t immune to struggle and he can strongly argue he does know a thing or two about intense challenge. Not too many people could pull up their shirt and show whip marks from multiple floggings. Paul could.
However, Paul also experienced the types of struggles that don’t have outward scars. The kind of struggles that are emotional and spirit wrenching. The kind of challenges that sometimes feel like God has turned a deaf ear to you as you battle them day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out.
Paul knows about these and in fact he had a name for it, thorns. He prays for God to take the thorn from him, but receives a much different answer than what he expected.
We pick up in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 where Paul says,
“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.”
In essence what God is telling Paul about his thorn is, “If you feel like a weakling you are right where I want you.”
I see 3 lessons we can learn about our thorns and being a weakling like Paul in these verses. We’ll examine those in the next blog, but until then I want to leave you with this idea about your thorns, challenges, or struggles.
When looking at our thorns, the question to ask is not “When will this thorn go away?” The real question is “What will I do with this thorn while I have it to honor God?”
Don’t think for a second that if we are exhausted, weak, and helpless God can’t use that for His glory. In fact He tells us that He does His best work when we have nothing left to give Him. So start by giving Him your nothing so He can give you everything and you’ll be able to do anything because of the strength He gives you.