By Lisa Leidenfrost
Paul was given an infirmity for a purpose. Since he had just told about ‘a man’ (himself), who had had a celestial mountain top experience, God gave a trial to him to keep him grounded.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be halted above measure” (2 Cor. 12:7).
Then in verse 8 Paul pleads with God to take it away. Notice how he is not pleading with Satan but God. He knew who holds the keys. God must have told him no because this was His answer to him:
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9, 10).
There is a connection here between strength and weakness, infirmities and power, and oddly enough, pleasure.
That word pleasure is not the word one would normally pair with the following behind it: infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, distresses. I mean, when you are distressed, the feeling one has at the moment, is just that –distress, not pleasure. When you are suffering from great needs, you usually are preoccupied with fighting off worry. When you are reproached by others, it hurts. When you are persecuted, you are tempted to fear. When you are sick for a long, long, time and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you can feel weariness. But pleasure?
There is a reason for feeling pleasure but it goes beyond the present circumstances. God promised that with the trial His grace would be totally sufficient to carry us through, and that alone is something to rejoice in. But other good things come through the trial as well. In a trial that goes beyond our own strength, God’s strength comes through and is made perfect through our weakness.
But why is our human weakness so vital to God’s show of power? When we are weak, we can no longer lean on our own strength and must have His help. This is when His divine strength can fully come in, when our strength is gone. It is a power beyond ourselves that can only be accessed in Him, and therefore He is glorified in it. So, we can take pleasure in the process of our weakness because it accesses His strength which brings Him glory. When we look up and embrace what is going on, it helps us to put our focus right, beyond the trial, and up to Him. So, let Him have His perfect work. When you are weak, you actually are very strong, because it is then that the divine power is coming through.
Consider another verse that shows the weakness/strength theme:
“For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you” (2 Cor. 13:4).
Because of Christ’s weakness in going through the crucifixion it was the saving of the world which unleashed God’s power in human hearts. Because we are in Him, we now live by that power.