Shockingly, Paul tells us to be thankful for our weaknesses, for insults, persecutions, and difficulties. He argues that God allows these things into our lives so that we remember to walk in the Power of God, and not in our own strength.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Are things going well? Are you tempted to take pride in what you are, what you have, or what you have done? Hold up, a minute. This is when Paul is warning us to watch out! It could be easy for us to get distracted by our high points in life, that we forget to stay grounded and remember who holds time in His hands; the one who speaks and the winds and the waves obey Him. If we are not careful, we focus too much on our achievements or successes or victories, that we forget that things could change in the blink of an eye. God wants to keep us humble. He knows that humility is where we will hear his voice and be aware of his presence. He knows that in humility, we will find Him. We will find rest. We will find strength. We will find peace.
So Paul tells us to rejoice in our weaknesses, not in our strengths, because our weaknesses keep us humble, and humility keeps us closer to God. His power is strong in us when we depend on Him to win our battles. His Name is glorified when we acknowledge that only by His grace do we stand. His reputation is magnified when we declare that we can walk through a trial with profound peace and quiet trust because we know Him, and we know He will be with us to the end. Our testimony is a bright light to other travelers, when we can thank God for our trials, hardships, and weaknesses, knowing that He is making us stronger and more like Jesus.
As Christians, we can choose how we respond when we find ourselves in upsetting circumstances. It is often said that there are “glass half empty,” or “glass half full” people. I would like to propose that God desires something more. He does not want us to be fair-weather followers. Our thanksgiving should overflow when all is well. However, our thanksgiving should persist through trials of every kind. This requires ardent faith.
James shares Paul’s theology. He writes “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:3)
God’s goal is our maturity. He is forming Christ within us. He uses these thorns and tribulations and trials to make us complete. “Perseverance must finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4)