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. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 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. 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. (2 Corinthians 12:7–10)
The Lord’s goal for us is that we lead a balanced life, that blessings would never be a stumbling block or a detriment to us. Many Christian leaders and believers alike, seem to think that adversity is a problem that should be eradicated from the Christian’s life, but Paul says, “a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.” Initially, Paul thought the removal of this problem would be of great benefit to him, but the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Then Paul understood that grace with the thorn was to his benefit. A balanced life is of great value, characterized by Christ-dependency and God providing opportunities through our sufferings and weaknesses for the display of His glory. Of course, this is contrary to mankind’s natural disposition. We see this clearly in the book of Job where satan answers God saying, “skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (Job 2:4-5).This is what the accuser of the brethren thinks, but Job did not curse God, but held fast to his righteousness, and we also, no matter how difficult the trial, will hold fast to our righteousness, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord! Jesus does not achieve the balance He desires for us by shielding us from negative situations but by shielding us through these fiery trials with grace—His grace. Peter speaks to this balanced life with an admonition saying,“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (I Peter 4:12-14).
Paul also instructs us to “be watchful in all things, endure afflictions […] fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). He says again, “take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it” (Colossians 4:17). This is not done by always avoiding painful situations, but by His grace! The Apostle James tells us to “count it all joy when you [we]fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your [our] faith produces patience [endurance]” (James 1:2-3).Again Peter says, “since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, [let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus] for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1–2, Philippians 2:5). “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” remembering, that anything we suffer for the sake of Christ is a privilege, not a penalty (Hebrews 4:15-16).