All sufficient grace
“In order to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”’2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NLT
Mark reminded us recently of the agony that Christ Jesus endured for us in Gethsemane as he cried out to God, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk 22:42) There was no other way, and Jesus drank the cup of the Father’s wrath for us on the cross.
This verse, our Lord’s prayer, reminds me of Paul’s plea that the Lord would take away the thorn in his flesh. He was told three times that the Lord’s grace would be sufficient. The power that could have removed the ‘thorn’ would be better used to give Paul the strength and the humility he needed day by day.
Paul’s pain would not have the final word, and indeed it would even be used for good. A proud Paul could never have had the same impact for the Kingdom.
When Life is Hard, and Prayers are not answered (the way we want)
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective, but sometimes our prayers are not answered the way we want. This is part of every Christian’s experience. We beg him to take our troubles away but he has us walk with him through the valley instead. In the examples above we know why. We know Paul’s thorn remained in order to keep him humble, aware of his utter dependence on the Lord. We know the Lord Jesus could only secure salvation for sinners by dying in our place on the cross.
Sometimes we see why the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers as we would wish. Occasionally at the time, more often years later. Sometimes we are never able to see the bigger picture, to understand why. But we can always be assured that Jesus understands what it is to face deep sorrow- even after having prayed that if it could be removed from him, it would be. We have a High Priest able to sympathise, to empathise, with us.
We can also be assured that God is good. And that he works for the good of those who love him. God can, and does, bring good even from situations filled with sorrow.
Lastly, we remember that while God doesn’t always deliver us from sickness, or sorrow or grief. One day he will. Weeping may last the night, but joy will come in the morning.
“There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’Rev 21:4–5
He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’“
May God grant us the faith to trust in the sufficiency of his grace, now and always,