A Different Look at Problems
by Matt Smith
Think with me for a few minutes about your normal prayer time and ask yourself what you usually thank God for. Do you thank Him for your salvation regularly? Certainly we should. How about other things like safety, health, family, friends, etc.? Personally, I will try to take at least a few minutes and thank God for the good things He gives me that are often taken for granted, like those that I just listed. Besides trying to remember to thank God for these things, often times we pray and ask God for these types of requests, things that will make our life easier and more enjoyable. After all, life is hard enough without having major things go wrong, isn’t it?
Not that there is anything per se wrong with asking God for these things, but our reading today points out that Paul had a little different type of attitude. In 2 Corinthians 11, he lists some of the things he has had to endure for the cause of Christ. Things such as whippings, beatings, being shipwrecked, weariness, sleeplessness, hunger, without sufficient clothing and prison time. That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Kind of makes our “suffering” seem pretty minor, doesn’t it?
He also in chapter 12 talks about a thorn in the flesh that he asked God to take away. No doubt this thorn was some physical condition that he had to deal with regularly. The Lord’s response is one that most of us know well, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, God is saying that He would not take the thorn away and make Paul’s life easier, but instead He would give Paul the grace to deal with the issue.
Paul’s response to this shows a level of spiritual maturity that few of us have. He responds by saying, “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.” Really Paul? You take pleasure in those things? How different of an attitude than most of us have considering we often ask God for a pain-free life. In fact, some would even try to link someone’s spirituality to how trouble-free their life is. Instead, Paul reminds us of the importance of living a life fully dependent on God and His grace and how our walk with the Lord is often the strongest as we go through the hard times in life. So, while I don’t think we need to go as far as to ask God for problems, may we recognize the spiritual benefits as we go through life’s many valleys.