“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”—2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NIV).
We live in a time where people want instant gratification. Anything we can think of is at our fingertips. We don’t have to leave our homes for food. At the click of a mouse, we can find information about almost anything. We can see and speak to people around the world through the use of our cell phones and technology that fits into the palm of our hands or on our wrist. We want what we want when we want it.
So, when it comes to the things of God and our petitions in prayer, oftentimes, we approach the Lord the same way. We want God to do what we want when we want it, and we will name, claim, kick, scream and shout to get it. However, what if God says, “No” or “Not at this time”? What do we do then?
Paul was in this very situation. He had an affliction he describes as a thorn in his flesh, and he pleaded with God three times to remove it. Each time God said no. God says to Paul that His grace is sufficient for whatever he is suffering in the flesh. Paul then discovers something about God in the midst of his suffering – that when he is at his weakest, that’s when God’s power is revealed.
I, too, have come to learn many lessons through God’s denial of instant deliverance, and after over 30 years of begging and pleading, I’m finally walking in deliverance from a major struggle. God hasn’t removed the thorn in my flesh, but God showed me that He has the power to bring my flesh into subjection so I don’t suffer from the side effects of the thorn, and God showed me His power is made perfect when I’m at my weakest. God also taught me there is a reason why He says no to instant deliverance many times. Here are some reasons why.
God wants to show us who’s really in control.
When we’re faced with challenges or dis-ease in our flesh, it can seem like the issues are so great we can’t overcome them. Well, you’re right. You can’t overcome them in and of yourself, but if you place your issues in God’s hands and trust Him, God will show you He has the power to give you victory over any problem. Look at the woman with the issue of blood. The best trained physicians couldn’t pinpoint the cause of or cure to her problem. She suffered for 12 long years as a result. However, with just one touch of Jesus’ garment, she received healing. When Jesus and the disciples were on the raging sea and the disciples thought they were going to die, Jesus showed them He has power to speak peace to them and the roaring winds and sea. Sometimes God remains “asleep” in the bottom of life’s ships because He wants to show us we have nothing to fear and He has power over anything in heaven and earth – even our issues whether mental, emotional, physical or spiritual. We may not be in control, but He’s in control.
God wants to humble us and use our suffering to transform us.
No one wants to suffer. I’m a punk when it comes to pain and suffering. However, God uses suffering to humble us and conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians chapters 11-12, Paul acknowledges he cannot boast about anything about himself because it was God who chose him to be an apostle. In the same way, God wants to humble us, so we will know where we get our strength, power, healing, gifts, etc. Every good and perfect gift comes from above. God doesn’t want us walking haughtily and not acknowledging Him. There is only one King, and it’s not us.
God also uses thorns to conform us to the image of Christ. He does this to make us completely and utterly dependent on Him. When we suffer with a thorn, we realize how truly fragile and weak we really are. We realize we are dependent on God for everything, even our very next breath. Jesus requires this kind of dependency if we’re going to be effective in our work for the Kingdom, so we don’t get ahead of God and think the power comes from us. If we’re humble and dependent on Him, we will allow God to lead and guide us.
There is no testimony without a test. God is developing an unmatched praise in us that will bring Him great glory.
I love the story of the 10 lepers Jesus healed in Luke 17:11-19. One leper came back praising God in a “loud voice.” Imagine the kind of praise you will have when God shows you that you can overcome any affliction through the power of the Holy Spirit. Imagine the kind of power and freedom in Christ you will have when you learn that God doesn’t have to remove the thorn for you to have victory over it. This is the kind of worship and praise that pleases the Lord. God wants us to glorify His name in the earth so others may come to know and worship Him. Matthew 5:16 (NIV) says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
God uses our thorns to teach us about Himself.
As Christians, our lives are the landscape by which we learn about Jesus Christ. Every person we encounter, every situation and obstacle we face are used to teach us about the Lord and the Kingdom of God. It is not easy. However, remember God is using your thorn to teach you something. He might delay your deliverance so you can learn the spiritual lessons He’s trying to teach you. The lessons are important because they are going to carry you through every obstacle you face in life. God wants us to walk in victory. Allow Him to use your thorn. God’s word is true. He makes the promise, if you suffer with Christ, you will surely reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). Allow Him to do His work in you.