â€œTherefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christâ€™s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.â€ (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Here is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life. How could the apostle Paul actually find pleasure in being persecuted or reproached, in being placed in distressing situations, and having to endure bodily pain or weakness? There could be no pleasure at all in such things were it not â€œfor Christâ€™s sake.â€
Paul was a great man of faith and prayer, and he prayed earnestly that God would remove what he called a â€œthorn in the fleshâ€ (v. 7), evidently some painful infirmity that he felt was hindering his ministry. God answered his prayer, however, by saying, â€œMy grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weaknessâ€ (v. 9).
Somehow, one of the most powerful testimonies to the truth of Christianity is given when Christians exhibit patience and joy and fruitfulness in the midst of sufferingâ€”whether that suffering be due to illness, or persecution, or loss, or any of a hundred situations that could be unbearable apart from Christ. In Paulâ€™s case, he said that his â€œthornâ€ could not be removed â€œlest I should be exalted above measureâ€ (v. 7) because of the great experiences God had given him as a Christian.
â€œGrace groweth best in the winter,â€ and we can testify with the psalmist, â€œIt is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutesâ€ (Psalm 119:71). One thinks, for example, of Fanny Crosby, blind since early childhood yet enabled to write 8,000 beautiful hymns in her 95 years.
The struggling church at Philadelphia was assured of an open door because it had â€œlittle strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my nameâ€ (Revelation 3:8). It is precisely when we recognize our own weakness in the flesh that we can become strong in Christ. HMM