It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— was caught up into paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Weakness seems to be a part of life in this world. I’m not referring to actual sin here, nor is Paul in the above passage. That’s another matter, and certainly God’s grace covers that as we confess our sins to God and when need be to others. God alone can parse out some of the issues which need to be resolved in the kind of weaknesses Paul is talking about here, and give us insight in that. But interestingly enough, these were problems that were not going to go away, or a problem more likely, though we see Paul include a list of things at the end.
Thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to no less than torment him, that doesn’t seem like anything good from God. And surely none of that came directly from God. Yet God not only used it, but somehow actually gave it. Yes Paul was given this, I take it from God. You would easily guess that those who are God’s servants in ministry might somehow feel elated and on top of the world. I at least think they ought to have God’s peace as they go about their lives and work. But Paul’s peace and more precisely contentment came in the midst of experiencing something quite less than elation, the kind of thing that could easily plunge one into the depths of despair.
Note that three times no less Paul appealed to the Lord, that this torment, thorn in the flesh, whatever it precisely was would be removed. Paul knew the Lord could do that. But the Lord’s reply: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul’s response to that was an acceptance which opened the door to experience Christ’s power resting upon him as never before. All for the sake of Christ. Something again that I want to learn to live in much better than I do.