2 Corinthians 12:8-10 “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.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We sometimes hear that God will not give us more than we can bear. The idea comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13. However, that verse deals with the issue of temptation. Paul says that when we are tempted (which I believe is the correct understanding based on the context), God will provide a way for us to escape! In other words, when we make a bad choice we can’t really blame God, because He has given us everything we need to bear up under temptation and to choose Him over sin. That is wonderful and scary all at the same time! But what about all the other things that happen to us as a result of living in a sinful and fallen world? Doesn’t God help us then?
The truth is that God does allow some things to happen to us that seem overwhelming at the time. Consider these words from Paul: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Cor 1:8). We all face struggles, disease, pain, and sorrow in this life. Paul experience more than most. He details more of the difficulties he faced later in that same letter: “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (11:24-27). How could he make it through? He gives us his secret a little later. He had another problem. We don’t know what it was. But he brought it to the Lord. Three times. And the answer he got may seem unexpected to us if we’ve been listening to all the bad preaching out there. God didn’t take it away. God didn’t get rid of the problem. God didn’t remove the pain. Instead, God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul was content with that, realizing that “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Here is the lesson for us today. When we face difficulty, trouble, pain and despair, they drive us to God. God doesn’t always take those things away, because they are the very things that drove us to Him in the first place! Instead, he give us comfort, courage, faith, and joy in the midst of our circumstances. He assures us that He is with us, even though he doesn’t remove all the pain from our lives. And it is because of that we are thankful.