The point is that we have millions of people walking around completely unsatisfied with their lives in all kinds of capacities. They are searching for that one thing that will keep them filled up. I heard Beth Moore recently say, “The continued search for something earthly to fill our empty places is costly. All excess is rooted in emptiness.” I recently have been doing jail ministry with a sweet group of ladies. As I sit and listen to the stories of their lives, I see the pattern of addiction. This addiction stems from a longing for something or someone to fill a void or need. It was such a striking point. Although I had never had drug or alcohol addiction in my life, I could see times where I was also acting out of emptiness instead of turning to my Savior. I want to look at a passage that illustrates how we can have contentment no matter our situation.
2 Corinthians 7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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. 10 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.
Paul went from persecuting Christians with a zealous enthusiasm to preaching the Gospel with the same zeal. Just as Paul was getting in his groove of preaching, he was stricken with an ailment. We are not told what this ailment is exactly. People have speculated it was depression, his eyesight, recurrent malaria, seizures, headaches, and on and on. The point is not what the ailment was, but Paul thinking it hindered his call. Look at verse seven: Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
In order to- gives purpose to the statement that is about to be made. This is the reason why-there is a purpose
Given- In the Greek this means a positive gift, like a birthday or Christmas present
Thorn- constant irritant
Torment- to strike with a fist
Paul is saying that he has had this horrible tormenting issue that is bothering him. It is ever present, just as if someone was striking him with a fist. He asked God to take it from him three times. Paul desperately wanted to get rid of the debilitating thorn, but God chose to leave it in his life for a purpose. I have heard Christians, to my dismay, make harsh statements to people about not having enough faith, or unconfessed sin in their life. Chad and I had been trying to have a child for years without any success. One day a little old lady told me in the hallway of our old church, “Honey, you must have some type of sin in your life, or either your faith is just not strong enough.” The only thing that saved that little old lady that day, I am sure, is the mighty hand of God! I could not even believe what I was hearing. Her detrimental words sent me on a path that made me question my faith and God’s plan for my life. Don’t ever let anyone feed you this line of garbage. The Apostle Paul had more than enough faith and was experiencing this, not because he was not good enough, but because God had a plan and a purpose for it. I could not see it at the time, but years later when we held that baby girl in our arms, I knew we would be a hundred times better parents after waiting and drawing close to Him. It was in the wait that He held us up and sustained us when nothing else could. Paul’s answer was no, but not because he didn’t love him, didn’t have enough faith, or God didn’t hear him. God’s answer was no, but in the same breath He says, “But I am going to give you the strength to survive, to even thrive.” “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.” I can just hear the tenderness in God’s voice as he says no, but I promise I am sufficient. It will be ok because I promise I am here. You will have this thorn, but it will never overtake you because I am enough. I wonder if we could just look up at God and say, “Lord, You are ENOUGH!” It is easy to say the words, but when you are in the trenches it becomes life or death. You have to look deeply inside to make sure you believe what you say. When things have not gone as planned, jobs have vanished, people have betrayed you, your family is in turmoil, you have lost a loved one, you have received bad medical news, or you are just dissatisfied, what will you do? Ultimately you will have to make a choice? Do you believe God is sufficient for you no matter the circumstance? Paul chose to look at the thorn as a gift. It is so hard to imagine this in our normal way of thinking. However, Paul chose to look at it as a gift that would allow God to have glory. You see, my friend, it is all about God’s glory.
So I will BOAST- another word there is glory SO THAT- purpose statement
God’s power was going to reach its full potential in the weaknesses of Paul’s life. Paul began to own it. He came to understand if he wanted the Power of God to rest on him even more, then he would gladly boast about his weakness and not be ashamed. Another way to say it is, “When I can’t do anything about my situation, and I am vulnerable, I will boast because it is there that God can show His limitless power on my behalf.” Satan loves for us to hide in our vulnerability and our weaknesses. He likes to keep things in secret because He has power there. Paul is setting the example to bring it to the light and boast about it because it is there God sanctifies our weaknesses. When we bring things to the light, Satan has no power. Please don’t misunderstand me; we don’t have to like the pain the situation brings, but we must continue to trust God’s plan. I cannot illustrate this any better than in our sweet friend Carrow- Kayleigh’s mom. This is an excerpt from her Facebook page that I think really brings it home in real life circumstances. This was written a couple months after Kayleigh went to be with the Lord.
February 7,, 2017
“Today has been a better day. It's still been a struggle, but I am learning that my struggles are a part of the process. That doesn't mean I like the struggles. I don't like being sad. I don't like that being around Kayleigh's friends make me miss her more. A part of me would like to get past hurting and move on. I don't like being sad! But... I know this process is a part of God's plan. I know that our journey and my sorrows are equipping me to help other people navigate hurt, loss and despair.
I can tell you that understanding doesn't make me like the process, but I can appreciate it better. I can see that our pain allows us to relate to people differently. One of our prayers for Kayleigh was simply, "Thy will be done. " Oh how I wish His answer would have been different. Yet, if God had answered our prayers, and we had never endured grief like this, we would not be able to reach or help people like we can now. Somehow, our loss is benefiting others.
What a steep price to pay. Yet I have a Savior that did that and so much more. I have a Savior that took on all of my guilt, sin and shame. I have a Savior that gave His life in place for mine. I have a Savior that conquered death and rose from the grave 3 days later. I have a Savior that I trust completely. So... if I trust Him completely, then I trust Him in this too.
I know that the clouds of sadness will always come and go. And I know, with time the sharp pain will dull and be more of an ache. But I'm not going to rush time. I'm choosing to learn what it is God needs to teach me where I am now. I know He will get me where He needs me in His time and in His way.
This verse hit me today. It's not time for our grief to pass. Our focus is on not our will, but Christ's be done.”
Luke 22:42 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
May we always remember in our circumstances that God is sufficient for us! Oh, He hears your sweet voice when you call to Him. He is more than willing to meet you where you are and fill the void that only He can.