Thursday, July 10, 2008

Enough is Enough

There was given me a thorn in my 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.”

2 Corinthians 12.7b-9

Thorny Problems

We all have thorns in our flesh—constant torments we can’t overcome. They’re not bad habits or attitudes or desires; those things we can fix through prayer and discipline. They’re personality issues. Thorns attack our flesh. They directly stem from our beings. They’re there just because we’re who we are.

Pause for a moment and think about the problems that are truly too big for you to solve. In all likelihood, they’re related to at least one of three things: your gender, your racial heritage, or your sexuality. When you brought these things into the world, vulnerability to certain thorns came with them. And Satan’s messengers were locked, loaded, and ever so happy to fire them at you.

An Answer We Don’t Want

In his letter to the Corinthians, why didn’t Paul identify his thorn? Was his anguish emotional or physical? Did it come from others? Or was it self-inflicted? The details are irrelevant. Something he couldn’t change about himself caused constant stress. He begged God to pull it out and stop the pain. It didn’t happen.

A lot of us are worse than Paul. After three tries, he finally listened. On the other hand, we keep begging. We make such a fuss we can’t hear what God is saying. If we manage to calm down long enough to get His answer, it’s not what we want. So what do we do? We beg some more.

A Better Ending

Be still,” God told Israel, “and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10) It’s His show; He’s the Writer, Producer, and Director. He created our beings for His purpose and honor knowing others—sometimes even we—will accuse us of uselessness and shame. When we beg God to remove our thorns, we’re really asking Him to change who we are. That won’t happen, because it alters His story for our lives.

His ending is far better than the one we want. It finishes with His power triumphing over our weakness. Our tormentors shrivel in defeat. In the meantime, we need to listen up. “My grace is sufficient,” He says. When we accept that, we’ll learn to accept ourselves—and our thorns. Why keep begging for more when enough is enough?

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