God’s Perspective on Suffering
In 2 Corinthians 12 we read some incredibly significant and important words about suffering. In the beginning of the chapter Paul writes that he had received some sort of revelation about heaven…at least that is what it appears he is writing. Then he says that because of these revelations God gave him a “thorn in the flesh”. This could have been a physical problem or even some type of demonic oppression. I don’t think we can be sure. Obviously, Paul prayed for God to take this away. This is what he writes: 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
God could have taken away the suffering from Paul, a man who had devoted all of his life to following Jesus. Instead, God tells Paul that Paul needs to rely on God’s grace; that God’s grace would be sufficient for Paul. Then God says that His strength is made perfect, or complete, in Paul’s weakness. Paul was actually better able to carry out the task God had for him with the “thorn in the flesh” than he would have been had God removed it. That is God’s perspective on suffering. God doesn’t “waste” suffering. Whether it be disease or disaster, God has a plan. I don’t have all the answers as to “why” nor the specifics of your particular situation but I think these words and the response of Paul are incredibly instructive for us.
How do you respond to suffering? Paul responded by accepting it; even to the point of saying that he took pleasure in the suffering. This was not because the suffering was enjoyable to him, but because he accepted God’s purpose in the suffering and believed that it made him a stronger and more effective servant for Jesus. That all of us would adopt this attitude; that God’s perspective on suffering would be our perspective on suffering.