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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

These two verses are extremely comforting to me.  Life at times can feel overwhelming, hardships come, the waves of doubt crash down, but, as Paul assures us, Christ is there in our weakness.

From the www.enduringword.com website:

For when I am weak, then I am strong: What triumph! What can the world do to such a man so firm in the grip of Jesus? God did not allow this thorn in the flesh to punish Paul or to keep him weak for the sake of weakness. God allowed it to show a divine strength in Paul.

  1. Think about this man Paul. Was he a weak or strong man? The man who traveled the ancient world spreading the gospel of Jesus despite the fiercest persecutions, who endured shipwrecks and imprisonment, who preached to kings and slaves, who established strong churches and trained up their leaders was not a weak man. In light of his life and accomplishments, we would say that Paul was a very strong man. But he was only strong because he knew his weaknesses and looked outside himself for the strength of God’s grace. If we want lives of such strength, we also must understand and admit our weakness and look to God alone for the grace that will strengthen us for any task. It was the grace-filled Paul who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
  2. “The valleys are watered with rain to make them fruitful while the summits of lofty mountains remain dry. A man must become a valley if he wants to receive the heavenly rain of God’s spiritual grace.” (Calvin)
  3. “From all this I gather, that the worst trial a man may have may be the best possession he has in this world; that the messenger of Satan may be as good to him as his guardian angel; that it may be as well for him to be buffeted of Satan as ever it was to be caressed of the Lord himself; that it may be essential to our soul’s salvation that we should do business not only on deep waters, but on waters that cast up mire and dirt. The worst form of trial may, nevertheless, be our best present portion.” (Spurgeon)

To summarize, instead of using his experience to glorify himself (as the “super apostles” among the Corinthian Christians did), Paul relates how his whole glorious experience humbled him more than ever.

All Paul’s enemies could see was the thorn; they could not see how and why it was there. But Paul knew, so he rejoiced even in his thorn in the flesh.

Of course, the greatest example of the principle Paul communicates here was lived by Jesus Himself. “Could anyone on earth be more meek than the Son of God to be hung on the cross, hung in our place that He might redeem us from our sins? As that point of absolute weakness was met by the mighty power of God as He raised Him from the dead, I wonder if the pressure of the thorn in Paul’s life was a reminder of the power of the cross.” (Redpath)

Yet, we should never think that in our lives, the mere presence of a thorn means the glory and strength of Jesus would shine in us and through us. You can resist God’s grace and refuse to set your mind on Jesus, and then find your thorn cursing you instead of blessing you. “Without the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, thorns are productive of evil rather than good. In many people, their thorn in the flesh does not appear to have fulfilled any admirable design at all; it has created another vice, instead of removing a temptation.” (Spurgeon)