In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul said God had given him “surpassingly great revelations” that could have tempted him to self-importance or conceited, but “to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan.”
Given? A thorn in the flesh sure doesn’t sound like a gift to me! “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me”. Wouldn’t you do the same? I know I would—and I have! I’m sure Paul used all the appropriate words, offering his request in Jesus’ name and all, but God’s answer to that request was . . . an invitation to wait.
Essentially God said, “No. I’m not removing the thorn. I have something better for you.” I doubt Paul appreciated the betterness of God’s plan in that moment! How thrilled could he be with God’s response to his pleading? “I’m going to give you my grace,” God answered, “and my grace is enough for you. And I am making you wait because if I answered your request and took away the thorn, you would miss out on my good plans for you. So I’m going to keep the thorn in place but give you grace, enough grace, and you will see that my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Does our theology of spiritual growth and leadership development include allowing weakness to open up space for God’s power? Or do we assume that human strength and wholeness are key to effective, fruitful leadership? I don’t hear a lot of discussion about leadership in terms of feeling weak and being strong even though that’s the model God outlined for Paul.
Paul put it this way: “When I am weak, then I am strong”.
At one time, I assumed this sentence referred to a sequence of events: I would feel weak for a little while, and then I’d feel strong. I don’t think that way anymore. I believe that sentence describes concurrent realities. When and then are happening in the same moment: grace makes me strong in the very moment I am feeling weak.
Lord, you know what is making me feel weak. You know what I consider the thorn in my side. Please enable me to open up space in my life to spend time with you and to receive your power.