Perhaps grace has been treated unfairly by the church. A powerful word with eternal truths, grace often slips through the cracks when we offer Christian encouragement. We don’t really know how to explain it. Offering grace sounds too simplistic, too incomplete. We want more.
When Paul pleaded for his thorn to be removed (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), he had a genuine need. In Paul’s opinion, removing the thorn would help him serve the Lord more completely. Jesus’ decision to offer grace rather than removal of the thorn is puzzling. Our Lord healed others. Why not Paul?
Grace is the undeserved favor of God. In our very limited understanding of spiritual truths, we think, “I’m all for your favor, Lord. I accept your unconditional love. But, I can’t feel it, see it or taste it, and I’m hurting. I need tangible evidence.” God says, “My grace is sufficient.”
We are left on our own to decipher meaning from these four words, knowing that God never owes us an explanation. Jesus reserves the right not to tell us why he says what he says. When Paul walked away from this conversation with no answer, Jesus was totally and genuinely at peace with his answer.
It was as if Jesus said, “Look Paul, what I give you through my grace is all you will ever need. My grace saves you and keeps you from an onslaught of sin. It helps you get past the mundane of life and live inside of my victory. Isn’t that all you really need?” In the grand scheme of things, Jesus has a point.
What Jesus could have said was, “Paul, get a grip! Man up! Grow up!” Instead, Jesus offered grace, and in that same verse he offers his strength. Jesus not only said his grace was sufficient, but also “my strength will be made perfect in weakness.” It was a grace-filled answer bursting with possibilities for humans who know all too well about our weaknesses.
Paul likely left this conversation with huge question marks all over his heart, thinking, “That all sounds well and good, but if grace is so sufficient, why am I still hurting?”
Maybe our problem is that we see grace from an earthly view while Jesus sees grace from a heavenly view. Jesus is overjoyed to give us grace because he knows we are getting his very best! If, when he hands out grace, we could see the grin of God, we would better understand that we are receiving a gift that makes him smile! If we were allowed into the Throne Room just as he dispenses his grace, we would likely see angels dancing while applauding. We would hear beautiful singing about grace from those who knew grace was amazing before the song was ever written.
Into your personal situation of heartache and pain, Jesus whispers, “Trust me. Grace is the better answer, your very best healing.” Into that relationship that is broken and bruised, Jesus whispers, “Trust me. Grace is the anchor you need to carry you above your pain, not just to help you tolerate your heartache, but to help you gain the victory.”
Into those deep wounds that want to control your thoughts and keep you in the clutches of an unforgiving attitude toward another, Jesus whispers, “Trust me. Grace will be your calm in the midst of your storms. It will come to mean so much more to you than what you think you need.”
As far as we know, Paul’s thorn was never removed. He lived, preached, taught, and healed with the thorn still in his life. He learned first-hand what it meant to have grace as his sufficiency, with strength bursting forth on waves of endurance for the rest of his life.
It is believed, but perhaps not proven, that Paul was beheaded under the rule of Nero, the Emperor. I’m sure he went to his death bravely, still carrying that thorn and thanking God for it. His thorn helped him understand God’s grace, the grace that would now carry him through death. By the time Paul wrote Second Corinthians, he had figured it out. He explained that because he had received an abundance of revelations, he had been given a thorn to prevent him from self-exaltation. In the grand scheme of things, Paul had a point.
It’s all about grace and will forever be about grace. Even when we’re still hurting.