Strength. Ease. Comfort.
These are what we strive for. These are what we pray for when the tough stuff hits. These three things probably make up the majority of the prayers that we pray for ourselves and others.
Is it wrong to pray for these things? Not at all.
- Strength to continue in the work that Jesus called us to.
- Comfort given as we face trials and as pain interrupts our lives.
I want people praying for me like this when I'm in need, but I want to be open to the way that God decides to answer their requests.
Uzziah started off well. It says in 2 Chronicles 26:4 that "he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD,..." At 16 years old he became king and started off well in God's eyes. But the problem came when he was strong. Strength is needed to accomplish an overwhelming task. However, that strength can also lead us toward conceit and self-reliance. These character traits are not connected to the life that God leads us into. Rather, they lead us away from God. That's why Paul so thankfully could write this in his second letter to the church in Corinth:
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harm me, to keep me from becoming conceited." — 2 Corinthians 12:7, ESV
What was the thorn? No one knows. Many people have their opinion but no one really knows. And honestly, do we really think that Paul wrote this verse so that people could sit around and argue about what that thorn actually was or to encourage us toward accepting God's gracious provision of thorns in our own lives to keep us from becoming conceited?
Could it be that God's most gracious and loving act could be given to us through a most annoying and painful trial? Could it be that the very tool of God to move us forward in the journey with Christ we pray against, constantly asking for comfort from it? Even Paul prayed that God would take that thorn away, but he asked three times and left it alone. When he knew God's answer to his request of releasing him from the thorn, he accepted it as God's gracious gift and said,
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." — 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10, ESV
Content with weakness. Content with insults. Content with hardships. Content with persecutions. Content with calamities.
Content | eudokeo |
- be pleased with
- enjoy, take pleasure in
- prefer, choose as better
I look at that statement from Paul. I look at the word that he chose to use (content) to describe his heart toward his suffering and struggles. I look at this and admit that I have a long way to go. There is still conceit in my heart which is why God blesses me with the "thorn in the flesh" as a most gracious gift.
Thank you Jesus.