“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Here is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life. How could the apostle Paul actually find pleasure in being persecuted or reproached, in being placed in distressing situations, and having to endure bodily pain or weakness? There could be no pleasure at all in such things were it not “for Christ’s sake.”

Paul was a great man of faith and prayer, and he prayed earnestly that God would remove what he called a “thorn in the flesh” (v. 7), evidently some painful infirmity that he felt was hindering his ministry. God answered his prayer, however, by saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).

Somehow, one of the most powerful testimonies to the truth of Christianity is given when Christians exhibit patience and joy and fruitfulness in the midst of suffering–whether that suffering be due to illness, or persecution, or loss, or any of a hundred situations that could be unbearable apart from Christ. In Paul’s case, he said that his “thorn” could not be removed “lest I should be exalted above measure” (v. 7), because of the great experiences God had given him as a Christian.

“Grace groweth best in the winter,” and we can testify with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71). One thinks, for example, of Fanny Crosby, blind since early childhood, yet enabled to write 8,000 beautiful hymns in her 95 years.

The struggling church at Philadelphia was assured of an open door because it had “little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8). It is precisely when we recognize our own weakness in the flesh that we can become strong in Christ. HMM


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