2 Corinthians 12:8. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
The greatest thing that could ever happen to you is your salvation. You have been placed into Christ. Your future is safe and secure in him. His life in you has afforded you every spiritual blessing. He is your great advocate and high priest. His life is your very life. We have the unconditional, never ending, indestructible love of God forever inside of us.
And yet sometimes God says “No” when we pray.
This too is part of “to live is Christ.” Did not Christ himself face this same response from the Father.
Matthew 26:36-46. Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Christian I know you too have asked God, even begged God, to take away the thorn in your life. I know I have. And maybe he has. Praise Him!
But maybe he hasn’t. And if he hasn’t, you are in the same position as Christ and Paul and countless other brothers and sisters. And what we can learn from them is that God is good and God is faithful, and his “No” to thorn removal is always a “Yes” to the sufficiency of grace.
The crucified life, the life of self sacrifice, the life of weakness can only be born through fervent and honest prayer to our Father. Could Jesus have continued into the night of his death without it? Can we?
Nothing good comes from brushing aside our thorns, our agony, our desperation, our weakness. Nothing good comes from denying it, numbing it, or stoically enduring it. Only in crying out to our Father can we really process the thorn and its purpose. The prayer may not change God’s mind, but it will change yours. It will open up your heart to his will, and to his amazing grace that is ready to meet you in the agony.
We might wonder, “Shouldn’t a guy like Paul, a man who went to Paradise for goodness’ sake, get a miracle?” A “Yes?” Did Paul’s prayer lack faith? Did he go to the wrong healer? Doesn’t God owe him a healing? Doesn’t our faith cause God to do what we want?
We know the answer to these questions don’t we? God’s priority is not your comfort level it is 2 Corinthians 3:18.
2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
God’s goal is your transformation. Transformation that comes by beholding Christ the Lord and his glory in the cross. The glory of his submission and dependency. The glory of his weakness. The glory of his faith in the Father in the midst of his own thorns. God wants for you the same transformation that occurred for Jesus. From death to resurrection. Transformation to glory, but through the process of self denial. Transformation from the glory of grace received to the glory of grace received.
Paul’s, and your, prayer did not go unanswered. The answer was simply not what he foresaw. It was far better. It was an experience of knowing Christ and the fellowship of his suffering, becoming like him in his death (Phil. 3:10).
Are you crying about your thorn, or crying out to God about your thorn? How does union with Christ allow us to trust God in the midst of his “No” answers? Where can you see God’s grace meeting you in the middle of your trial?