Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Living out the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ manifests itself on many different levels and dynamics. We all face mundane, tedious situations where we need His grace- I.E., when picking up someone else’s dirty socks and then actually washing them for said sock person; listening to a person who may be getting on your nerves with repetitive squabble; sorting other people’s stuff and dairies-AGAIN AND AGAIN; when you just want to say to your children, “okay, I give up. You call the shots. I am too weary to be a parent to you in this situation;” when you want to withdraw because someone you love has hurt you; or you want to respond with passive aggressive behaviour toward someone you are angry with. And these are just a few examples of everyday living stuff.
What about those deep, deep hurts or pain or circumstances that may never be sorted in this lifetime?
We each have a story. Some of you are trying to overcome habitual sin that has a stronghold in your life. Some of you are trying to forgive someone who has devastated you. Some of you are trying to share the gospel with someone who remains indifferent. Some of you are trying to endure chronic physical pain. Some of you are trying to survive the crushing circumstances of life. Some of you are trying to crawl out of the pit of damaged emotions or past “stuff” that is impacting on your life today in a negative way. Or you are trying to comfort or encourage someone who has lost a loved one from disease, an accident, estrangement.
Paul tells us that there was a time in his life when he repeatedly cried out to God to take his pain away. And God’s reply surprised him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
BUT the weakness or pain is still there. Some things that make us groan never go away.
What was God’s purpose in giving Paul this thorn? To keep him from being conceited (2 Cor 12:7) – our sufferings often do that. The great enemy in Paul’s life was not stonings, beatings, shipwrecks – or anything to do with his circumstances – but PRIDE. This “thorn in the flesh” wasn’t punishment, it was prevention, and frankly, salvation. It was God’s way of rescuing Paul from himself.
Which is always one of the things God is doing through our un-plucked thorns.
The Lord makes us conscious of our weakness – it comes to us in many forms: physical, intellectual, temperamental; emotional; circumstantial …
So we cry out to Him in prayer: “I can’t handle this – take it from me.” Sometimes He does – but sometimes He replies to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” There will always be “grace to help us in our time of need.”
And this was the lesson Paul learned. He doesn’t merely give grudging acceptance to what he can’t change, but yielded to God for Christ’s sake. And in so doing has proved the power of God’s overflowing grace. Now he has stopped praying for the removal of the thorn, not because it has stopped hurting, but because the power of God is seen most fully when it works through a weak and broken instrument. Paul has learned that the thorn didn’t, after all, prevent him from making Christ’s cross-shaped love known to a broken world. The thorn actually kept him on course, because of God’s grace.
So what does this mean for you and me? Let’s learn from Paul. The truth revealed at the cross is not that we’re mighty but that we’re needy; not that we’re strong and self-sufficient, but that we need rescuing. And God’s rescue comes through the weakness of the cross. So our weakness, and God’s power working through our weaknesses, perfectly displays the cross.
The grace that God gives for our un-plucked thorns is about shaping our character as well as making us fruitful in other ways. Our Father God can minister just fine through your weakness; my weakness- to cry out to Him for grace which makes us useful and brings Him glory.