I read an interesting blog post last week from Seth Godin. He talks about making two lists. On the first, we list all of our troubles and ailments. The second gets filled with our opportunities, strengths and talents. Godin’s challenge is to choose, intentionally, which list you are going to focus on. This list, you will read everyday. There is no question that the list you choose will shape your day, your year and your life. I found this axiom playing out in today’s reading as well. As you know, Paul suffered from an ailment. A “thorn” in his flesh.
Paul wanted nothing to do with his affliction. Who would? In fact, as it drew his attention and distracted his purpose, he did exactly what I would do. He “begged God to remove it” (2 Corinthians 12:8). (I would have added some complaining and self-loathing to the equation.) As Paul persisted in begging God for relief, he was continually denied, which produced an interesting crossroad for Paul. Just as Godin suggests, he had two choices. Either focus on the his debilitating weakness, and wonder why God would do such a thing to him, or accept God’s sovereignty.
No matter our hardship, if we accept God’s sovereignty and authority in all things, He will offer us solutions. Rather than shut God off, Paul continued to submit and listen. As he did, God provided him with encouragement, assuring him that grace was all he needed. Immediately upon his acceptance, Paul understood that any affliction, when compared to the grace that God supplies is irrelevant. All work is possible despite our human weakness. In fact, it is in our weakness that God receives the most glory. Why? Because without Him, our affliction is debilitating and the work is impossible to complete.
Paul’s new understanding prompts gratitude. He comments that, “I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift” (2 Corinthians 12:9, MSG).
Take a moment to list of all your troubles, as Seth Godin suggests. Now, imagine that they may never go away. Rather than tuck them away in a drawer, consider what will change in your life when you submit them to Gods sovereignty and treat them as a gift, not a curse. I find incredible peace in that exercise. The peace comes not from a second list of my strengths, but from God’s presence. It is His power, His strength, His glory, His perfection and His grace that make me whole.