2 Corinthians 12:7-10
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, 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.” 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.”
If there is one thing that people try to avoid its pain. Our typical response to pain is to run because instead of seeing pain as productive we seem to only see it as a problem. We rebel at the suggestion of it, recoil at the sight of it, and reject any notion that it might be beneficial. Yet the truth is that the lessons of life are almost always taught in the classroom of calamity. Yet few of us are willing to be a student in the classroom of suffering. When it comes to pain, here in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul provides us with a proper perspective. First Paul reminds us that pain is:
- Part of life
From a logical point of view, one would think that God would be gracious and reward those who do good with less pain. Especially when it comes to those who are sold out to serving Him, but I want you to notice that even preachers like Paul don’t get a free pass when it comes to pain. In fact the opposite is true, as Paul passionately pursued God’s plan of proclaiming peace to all people he seemed to endure an incredible amount of pain. His “resume of suffering” appears in the previous chapter, in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, and includes multiple imprisonments, beatings, floggings, canings, life-threatening experiences, as well as stoning and shipwrecks where he spent a night and a day stuck floating in the open sea. There were times of torment and trials when he didn’t had enough food, clothing, sleep, or friends. He was chased by bandits and infuriated religious leaders, and he carried the pain of being betrayed by false friends. Paul also battled temptation and experienced anxiety over the young churches that he started. So when we come to this passage we need to remember that Paul is not being flippant about pain, for he was a regular student in the school of suffering. Paul refers to this pain as his “thorn in the flesh.” How bad was this particular pain, well the passage tells us that it was a hurt straight from hell, it was a “messenger from Satan,” sent to torment him. Paul didn’t just put up with this pain he prayed and asked God to remove the pain. Not only because pain is not fun but also because from a human perspective Paul could have done more without the pain. He could have planted more churches, written more letters, won more converts for Christ. Paul didn’t just petition God once, he persisted in prayer asking again and again. On three separate occasions Paul pleaded with God to remove his pain, yet this passage makes it clear that God didn’t take away His thorn of suffering. When it comes to pain we need to remember that our Savior walked the streets of suffering. He understood the pain of loss as He wept at Lazarus tomb or the pain of God’s people as he wept over unrepentant Jerusalem. He experienced the agony of both the physical pain of the cross, as well as the personal pain of betrayal. He suffered the pain of scourging as well as the pain of disappointment and discouragement. He was ridiculed and rejected so that we could be redeemed. Jesus walked the path of pain and so will we. Look life often starts with pain as the doctor slaps the baby’s bottom, and in some aspects, goes downhill from there. The truth is we already know that pain is a part of life the real question is are we looking for the positives in our pain or are we just going to complain?