“I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:2-10)
I am grateful to the commentators that I looked at were clear and unequivocal that the writer of II Corinthians were referring to himself (Paul, that crafty fellow) in the opening verses of this passage. And I would take to task for that, but later in the passage he humbles himself and admits that there was an affliction that he asked God to heal him from, but the Divine refused saying the Lord’s grace was sufficient for Paul to persevere despite his weakness and affliction.
You may remember, beloved reader, that back on June 27th I talked about healing, and that I had come to terms with not being healed. It would seem that Paul came to that same place. Yes, it is true; Paul and I may be a lot alike.
Do I consider my affliction to be a thorn? No. I do not think it was given to me to make me humble. And if that was the purpose, then quite honestly it has not worked. What it has done is given me insight into the medical world, and given me a point of connection with those who suffer physically even if I do not talk about my illness – which a very seldom do.
But I do not think weakness and lack of healing are the only issues in this passage. As my title suggests, Paul also knows himself well. May be his affliction did keep him humble; or at least kept him connected to physical realities. And perhaps tended to gentle his temperament towards weaknesses in others. The Spirit knows what needs to be done in order for us to reach our full potential for ministry, or more accurately the ministry that God calls each of us to.
Consider that Paul knew himself well enough to know what his affliction affected him as a person. And he knew God well enough to ask for healing AND accept the answer. These two facts should not be passed over lightly. Furthermore, perhaps because of enduring this affliction and relying on God’s grace Paul was able to endure other things for the sake of Christ and the good news that Paul spread. So Paul is right to boast not in what he can do, but what God can do through him despite and because of who Paul is.
May we, you and I beloved reader, boast not of ourselves but God within us and God working through us for the Lord’s purpose. Selah!