Wonderful Thing in this Passage – When things are going our way, we are generally satisfied with God. But then, when things are going our way, we really don’t need Him anyway (at least that’s the illusion we’re under). But what if things aren’t going well? What if we face major roadblocks and there’s nothing we can do to remove them?
Well, if we pray and God instantly removes them, we (hopefully) thank Him, and we’re back to “things going our way,” and God’s OK. But what if we pray and nothing changes? Our health doesn’t improve, our adversaries don’t give up, our limitations aren’t lifted.
What if we pray again and again, and God seems to be saying, “I have you where I want you, and I’m going to leave you under these limitations for a while for reasons that seem good to Me.”? And what if He ends the conversation with, “Is that going to be OK with you?”
That’s where Paul found himself. He’d been given more extraordinary visions and revelations than most apostles, but with them he was given “a thorn in the flesh…a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself” (2 Cor. 12:7).
We don’t know what this thorn was. We do know that he felt its chronic pain like an embedded thorn. We know that Satan tormented him with it (literally, beat him up). We know that it kept him humble.
“Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me” (2 Cor. 12:8-10).
God answered Paul’s prayer. It just wasn’t the answer he was looking for. Paul was looking for action (thorn removal); God gave him insight: “But He said to me…” Relief from current pain is temporary. Deeply implanted insights into God’s character and work last a lifetime.
God’s answer was better than Paul’s request. He asked for what he wanted; God granted what he needed. Paul asked for comfort; God gave him protection and progress: protection from pride and progress in faith. Unknown to the apostle, his problem served a divine purpose: “so that I would not exalt myself.” God taking it away while it still served that purpose would be to Paul’s detriment, not to his advantage.
Wonderful Thing in My Life – Paul was right to ask for what he wanted just as he taught us to do: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). God welcomes our petitions, but He grants some and withholds others. We can learn to be deeply content either way.
When we begin to turn every petition over to God with full assurance that He will do what is best rather than what is desired – that’s when we settle into His peace. And the longer we walk with Him, the more often we thank Him that He hasn’t given us every dumb thing we’ve asked for.
The Lord still wants us to know and is willing for us to go through some discomfort to learn it: “My grace is sufficient for you.” It is not in God’s blessings but in His presence that we find all we need. God is enough.