I am a student of words. I believe in their power; they are descriptive, they are inspirational, they are enduring. Whenever I discover meaningful quotes, I copy them to my journal. Every book I own has been highlighted, earmarked, or paper clipped for easy access should I want to revisit a meaningful passage. I have been comforted, challenged, and convicted many times throughout my life solely by the printed word.
Yet, it is within the living breathing Word of God, that I have found my greatest sustenance. My most deeply cherished possession is my Grandmother’s Bible. The pages are yellowed and the edges are frayed, yet, it remains alive with soul nourishment. Her handwritten notes are fading but the truth of their message continually speaks.
Next to 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10, she wrote Morning, June 27, 1948--Brother Gottwald, having underlined verse 9. This verse held special meaning to my Grandma. Even though she died when I was only 10, I continue to learn about this cherished loved one by reading her Bible. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
After wondering what my Grandma’s thorn may have been, I continued on to read the underscored verse: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” She did not list her thorn; she left a greater message--her strength was found in Jesus.
I draw great comfort from these words; for over the decades, I have repeatedly (more than three times!) petitioned God to remove my “thorn.” This thorn has tormented me since I was 15 years old. I have sought every kind of medical treatment, have been prayed over, and have believed that God would take my pain away. Yet, I continue to struggle with its pervasiveness.
For centuries, Bible commentators have only speculated what Paul’s thorn may have been. Isn’t Paul brilliant! Instead of identifying his weakness, he points us to Jesus--his strength. Perhaps he knew, that had he identified his struggle, believers of his day would have become distracted and responded with remedies or cures. Paul wanted our focus to be on his “weaknesses” (vs. 9b) because it is there that we find Jesus. This truth is relevant, whether in A.D. 55, 1948 or 2006.
Reflection: Where do you look when you are suffering? Do you set your eyes on the struggle only? How are you distracted? Within your own unanswered prayers, look for Jesus. Find his strength in your weakness. Let him sustain you, giving real purpose to your pain. Highlight 2 Corinthians 12: 9 and pencil in the words of Bible Commentator, Ray Stedman nearby: “The weaker you are, the stronger Christ can be.”