It was during a Wednesday night student Bible study when God used the Second Corinthian account of Paul to convict my downhearted, yet sinful, spirit. As I read Paul’s testimony, I couldn’t help but think, Wow! Someone out there has it worse than me! Even though I was still dealing with the aftermath of the fourth miscarriage, I still had no case for trying to prove within my intellect that what I had experienced was comparable to the hardships of Paul. It was no match. Paul won. Hands-down.
The Step Down Room, the two-night, non-bladder-voiding stay in the hospital, the emotional roller coaster which I was forced to ride and re-ride for 12 years, the severed heart over remaining childless, and even the ER episode to ease my excruciating cramping caused by a uterine catheter – all of it considered tallied up. Still Paul won. His trials surmounted mine from every angle.
At first I was convicted over my attitude toward my fertility calamities. For months, I had deemed myself to be a recipient of some of life’s greatest tragedies. And then with a close, intentional look at poor Paul, I quickly renounced my negative assumption. Truly, the apostle had endured much more. Oh, and by the way, his sufferings were all somehow related to his attempt to serve the Lord.
Our student group continued to study the passage, and within moments of God humbling me over my “woe is me” outlook, His Word spoke again – loud and clear – to my repentant heart. Paul continues his dissertation of suffering, and then he begins to relate to his readers another ailment, “a thorn in his side.” As he concludes his reference to his thorn, his tune begins to change. Paul begins to reveal his source of true joy – the joy which will become the subject of his Philippian letter which he goes on to pen some six years later.
After pleading with the Lord three times for a removal of the thorn, Paul hears the Lord say these life-altering words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV). In his downtrodden condition, the apostle Paul prayed – crawling before the Lord’s throne and begging the Lord God Almighty to take the pain away, to take the pain away, to please take the pain away. And the outcome was the above statement. No tweezers. No disinfected sewing needle. No thorn removal for Paul. Instead, a promise from the God of the universe was granted to the ailing missionary. And it worked! The exact fail-proof remedy that Paul needed was prescribed by mankind’s manufacturer. And Paul got “fixed.”
So what is it about this twofold promise that offered hope to Paul for his hopeless situation? What is the “magic” behind these words? First, Paul was promised a sufficient amount of God’s grace and, second, that God’s power would be fulfilled. And with that guarantee, Paul was not only able to cope, but he was able to find true joy and contentment.
Candise Farmer appears on LIFE TODAY this Tuesday. Excerpted from Green Pastures of a Barren Land by Candise Farmer. Copyright ©2012 by Candise Moody Farmer. Published by Free Church Press. Used with permission.