And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9a (NKJV)
How is it that God’s word can be both so comforting and so frustrating at the same time? I love that God lets Paul know that grace and strength are ever-available to him in the time of trial. I need to know that God is always there, always caring, always holding me up and carrying me along on the days when I just can’t possibly stand. At the same time, this tender passage reveals that God is all right with our weakness. He doesn’t necessarily always remove obstacles. How can that be?
Grace: charis (kharece) – that which afford joy; pleasure; delight; sweetness; charm; loveliness; God’s merciful kindness
Sufficient: arkeo (arkeho) – to be possessed of unfailing strength; strong; satisfied; contented
Strength: dunamis (doonamis) – strength; power; ability
Made perfect: teleioo – complete; carry through completely; accomplish; finish; add what is wanting in order to render a thing full.
Weakness: astheneia (astheniah) – want of strength; weakness; infirmity; frailty; feebleness of health; sickness.
God’s merciful kindness gives us the ability to be content. His strength, His power, somehow – in His mysterious economy – needs our weaknesses and frailties in order to be made complete. Not that God is incomplete without us, mind you. I think that this verse hearkens back to an earlier one from the same letter:
We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. – 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)
Our brokenness gives God great space to be glorified and to shine in our lives.
There’s the rub.
Paul wrote that the pain he had was necessary. Now he’s writing that God said “no” when asked to take the pain away. This makes no sense to us. How can a loving God allow us to suffer? How can this pain be necessary?
I don’t pretend to know how the will of God and the will of man work together. That’s a mystery beyond explanation. I do tend to fall more on the “free will” side of the fence, though Scripture and experience tell me that some things are, indeed, predetermined. I’m not sure we can always know what things are and what things aren’t. Was that cancerous tumor preordained by God? Was it a side-effect of living in a fallen world? What about the car-crash that takes the life of a loved one?
I don’t know. I don’t know how to tell the difference between what God “decrees” must happen and what He “allows” to happen. I don’t think that’s even the right avenue of inquiry, for who can know God’s mind and will so intimately? I sure can’t. Taken a step further, I’m not sure that our knee-jerk “why?” is the right thing to ask, either.
God’s loving kindness provides us with unfailing strength. If there were no trial, what need should we have for that strength?
For all posts in the God with Whom we Are Uncomfortable series, go here.