When Paul was struggling with his thorn in the flesh, he prayed three times that God would remove it. God did not remove the thorn. He had another answer in mind. Paul wrote, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus was bringing Paul’s faith to maturity, moving it toward completion, taking Paul to the place where his soul was fully satisfied in God.
The Lord told Paul not only that his grace was sufficient but that his power is made perfect in weakness. Jesus’s power finds its full strength in us when we are most dependent on him. That’s when we recognize that apart from Christ we can do nothing that leads us to our goal–fully abiding in him and experiencing the full measure of his resurrected life. That is new-covenant living.
Sometimes we try to take the bull by the horns. “I’ve got this, Lord.” Although we don’t say it out loud, we sometimes believe we are sufficient for the task. We know what to do to produce the desired outcome. I think the Bible calls that leaning on our own understanding. I fell into that trap several years ago. It was one of the most difficult situations in my life. I desperately wanted love to win out. I put my nose to the task of making it happen. All of my efforts and the extreme stress of the situation landed me in a hospital.
I left work one afternoon not feeling well. When I got home, Jeanna knew something was terribly wrong. She monitored my blood pressure for about an hour. It kept going up, and it finally reached a point where something had to happen. She took me to a nearby urgent care center. They took my blood pressure and then told Jeanna to get me to an emergency room as quickly as possible.
A nurse immediately called us into an examination room. At that point my blood pressure was off the charts. I was in trouble. The nurses were focused and moved quickly to stabilize me. They wheeled me to a back room and put an oxygen mask on me. At that moment, I felt safe, as if Jesus were saying to me, “My grace is sufficient.” I stayed in the hospital overnight and was released the next day. I left the hospital realizing my self-effort had done nothing but internalize the trouble. When I let go and relied on Jesus, I could see him at work and could trust him to work the situation for good.