Obviously, trouble occurs in every life. It can cause us to ask questions such as, “What happens when God does not answer my prayers?” or “What good can come from bad in my life?” A related question is, “Should I pray for God to intervene and remove difficult things from my life?” How one reacts to trouble, what one learns from trouble, and how closely one senses the power of God in the midst of trouble are the keys to understanding this perplexing mystery of life.
Take a moment of spiritual inventory. Do you truly learn from trouble? Is it a persistent, nagging part of life or one that you have come to embrace as the way to learn and grow? In 2 Corinthians 12:7–10, Paul’s yearning for God’s intervention in his life led to a very meaningful discovery of God’s strength despite the hardships he faced.
THE UNIVERSALITY OF TRIBULATION. In verse 7, Paul refers to a deep problem with which he was afflicted—a “thorn in the flesh.” There have been numerous interpretations as to the nature of this malady. Most have assumed a physical problem. Some think that the thorn refers to spiritual temptations. Others take it to mean the opposition and persecution Paul faced. One of the most interesting theories is that the “thorn” denoted the recurring agony of grief and remorse caused by Paul’s former hatred of Christ and his battle against him and his people.
A. T. Robertson said that “it is a blessing to the rest of us that we do not know the particular affliction that so beset Paul. Each of us has some such splinter or thorn . . . perhaps several at once.” Whatever this thorn might have been, Paul could discern the overarching providence of a God who perpetually created good out of evil. The afflictions of life are real. Troubles come. Pain is here. Yes, even for the believer.
THE NATURAL REACTION OF THE BELIEVER. Jesus prayed three times that the suffering He had been called to endure as the sin-bearer of mankind might pass from Him. In verse 8 of our passage, Paul also prayed three times that this thorn might be taken away. Paul’s imitation of Jesus’s example shows the natural reaction of the believer—prayer. It is in the act of prayer that God reveals Himself to us.
THE BEAUTIFUL PROVISIONS OF OUR LORD. In prayer, Paul received a beautiful message, though it was not the answer he expected. In verses 9–10, Paul prayed that his problem be removed. Instead of taking the problem away, God gave Paul the strength to bear it. Sometimes God does not spare us, but gives us the ability to come through the problem victoriously.
In this answer, we see God’s limitless love. Paul received the promise of God’s all-sufficient grace. He was told that whenever he was humiliated by the “buffeting” he received, he was to remember that, though unworthy in himself, he is still the object of God’s unceasing favor. It is in the weakness of man that the grace of God is strongest. It is in these times of hurt or weakness when God’s grace is most fully experienced.
When Jesus says in verse 9 that “My grace is sufficient,” it literally means His grace suffices and abides. God’s grace is both saving faith and abiding faith. When He says grace is perfected in weakness, this means that the power is continually increased as the weakness grows. Our human weakness opens the way for more of Christ’s power and grace.
Friends, listen to me. Yes, life has its troubles, and we rightly pray about them. In answer, God shows us His nature and asks us to realize His power. He urges us to see that in the struggles of life, He wants to help us by giving us the necessary strength to endure.