7So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10. ESV.)
Do you have a “thorn in the flesh”? Something, (a person, place, or thing) that keeps you humble? How do you deal with it? Do you become frustrated, angry, bummed out, intolerant, prayerful? Do you still hold on to hope that God will remove it from your life?
Regarding suffering, a Christian woman, author, spokesperson, and quadriplegic, Jodi Eareckson Tada states the following,
“You know, there’s a Civil War story I read some time ago about a woman who sought the favor of Abraham Lincoln on behalf of her soldier son who, apparently, committed an act of treason…. [Lincoln] admired her resolve, as well as her devotion to her family. So, after reviewing the soldier's case, Lincoln gave her son a pardon…. It gave him no pleasure to hand down that pardon; it was a decision he gave with seriousness, saying to the mother, "Your son may be free, but I still wish we could give him a little bit of hanging."
Lincoln had it right, didn’t he? Nothing drives home the sweetness of freedom like the bitter taste of a little bit of punishment…. A little bit of hanging – if that were actually possible – would have given that soldier a deep appreciation for his pardon and a deep sense of how wrong, of how serious his act of disobedience was. And you know what? This is the way it works with suffering. When you and I go through hellish circumstances, it’s God's way of giving us a “little bit of hanging”; a tiny taste of the hell he actually saved us from – suffering is, in fact, "a little bit of hanging." (Joni and Friends. “A Little Bit of Hanging. 2013. http://www.joniandfriends.org/radio/5-minute/little-bit-hanging/ .)
I believe Ms. Tada knows how it feels to have a “thorn in the flesh”. She lives with it everyday…a bit of “hell’s splash over”. That is what she calls “suffering”.
As I often say, suffering is hell's splash over, always waking us up out of our spiritual slumber, and making us appreciate all that Christ has rescued us from. Our deepest sufferings are a bitter but a very small taste of the ultimate thing. (Joni and Friends. “A Little Bit of Hanging. 2013. http://www.joniandfriends.org/radio/5-minute/little-bit-hanging/ .)
Whether it is a “thorn in the flesh” or “hell’s splash over” God has not forsaken those who are suffering. In fact, I believe it is quite the opposite. His word says,
18The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18. ESV.)