2 Corinthians 12:8-10 – New International Version (NIV)
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.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 – Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. But he replied, “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong.
I own a thorn. For years, it’s been my secret shame. Honestly, until very recently, its official name was unknown to me. I only thought of it as a small issue unique to me, and pridefully decided to overcome it alone. I didn’t tell my wife or my closest friends. Never even considered addressing the deeper levels of the issue with God. And yet, no matter how hard I try, I can never climb over it. It’s beyond my ability to handle alone.
The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about relying on the Lord for strength, in times of weakness. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, he told the brethren how he continued to face suffering. But God—refusing to remove the source of that suffering from Paul—instead reminded him that His grace was enough to not only sustain Paul, but to give him strength through the suffering. Paul eventually grew to understand and even embrace his human weaknesses, recognizing God’s supernatural strength working through his own human weaknesses. God’s grace was strong enough to carry Paul through his personal obstacles; obstacles he could not conquer on his own.
Christians want to hope God removes every obstacle blocking our paths. But sometimes, God leaves that thing right where it is, giving us no other alternative but to lean on Him for strength in dealing with that thing. It is by His grace that we are able to keep moving forward through some of our most troubling trials. And though He may not remove all sufferings—remember, Jesus promised us we would face trials and sufferings—God walks through those times, carrying us when we cannot walk on our own.
Last week, I took a particular type of test and scored low on the scale. I’m kind of an over-achiever so, under any other circumstances, this would have been a real problem for me. But there was actual comfort in now knowing. In fact, I had peace in discovering it’s an actual thing—my own thorn—and I’ve secretly struggled with it my entire life.
Dyscalculia is akin to dyslexia and I’m pretty sure it’s with me. I have a hard time dealing with and processing numbers. In particular, 6s and 9s tend to flip on me pretty easily. Digits in large numbers sometimes switch places entirely, causing me to constantly double back to make sure they’re correct. Sometimes, I come up with different answers to the same problem, when using a calculator, because I’ve flipped a digit or two someplace, so I constantly have to recheck my math for even the smallest calculations. I can’t remember a time when I scored a perfect 100% on any math test…ever. I took collegiate pre-calculus three times while at Western Michigan University and finally passed with a low grade. Budgets terrify me. Numerical graphs are a nightmare. Number-only charts mock me, because I have a hard time visualizing what they mean. For a really-long time, I simply thought of myself as being numbers-dumb. With that type of shame, I hid my problem from those closest to me…including God, as if He didn’t already know.
But recently, my wife has been by my side to help me out, whether she knows it or not. See, she’s discovering its depths just like I am. And she’s been supportive and patient. For years, I let the enemy convince me that she would look at me differently, if she knew my struggle. But God’s grace is sufficient. And, I understand now that she’s going to be right by my side whenever I need help.
God may not remove this thing from me. Or, maybe He will if I ask him to specifically take it away, by name; now that I know what it is. Either way, I understand where Paul was coming from when he wrote those words in 2 Corinthians. I have comfort knowing my wife supports and believes in me. I have courage knowing that God will be with me when numbers challenge me. His grace is sufficient.
Friends, I’m 46 years old and finally coming to terms with an issue I’ve harbored my entire life. God, in His loving kindness, brought understanding and peace into my situation. Just as important, He made it okay for me to share with others. He turned my weakness into a source of His strength and I have a confidence like never before, because I know those who are most important to me are by my side. I don’t have to be ashamed of my personal struggle anymore. So, be encouraged if you’re facing something monumental. God is greater than anything you may face. You may not ever be able to fully defeat all of your struggles, but God’s grace will supply the strength to push through, when you do not have it on your own.