The above sentiments were shared during a training event for small group leaders. The topic was, of course, the need for openness and transparency in small group relationships. The person who shared the above insight was pointing out that guardedness, especially of ones’ weaknesses, was something that ran on auto-pilot. One had to make a conscious effort to overcome that guardedness to be truly open in relating to others.
The premise of the need to be guarded was the fact that weakness is perceived to be bad. One tried to have as few as possible. And if you had any, you tried your best not to let on.
So when Paul says that he is glad to boast of his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:10), it should make us stand up and take notice.
When we study as to how Paul came to this conviction, we see that this was not a truth that Paul embraced easily.
God had given Paul a “thorn in the flesh” (V.7). Scholars debate as to the actual nature of this thorn. No one knows for sure what it was.
We only know that it caused Paul great distress. Now Paul was no wimp. He had gone through much suffering in his life (see for example, 2 Corinthians 6:1-10). Yet this thorn was something so horrible, he asked God to take it away. Three times. But God said no. And He gave His reason:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NRSV).
There was something much worse than pain – pride (v.7). To be more specific, it was a pride that made you think you were superior to others because of the experiences that you had received from God. It was a pride that would in the long run, make you feel that you no longer needed God, not really.
This type of pride was the spirit’s number one poison. Therefore it had to be dealt with. Hence Paul’s humiliating experience of weakness, a gift from the Father’s loving hands.
None of us are in the market for pain and humiliation. Not unless you are a masochist, in which case I would be glad to recommend to you some excellent mental health professionals. Our natural instinct is to resist, to rail and rant at tough circumstances that befall us.
We may wonder how a loving God could let us go through such pain. Perhaps, like Paul, we will discover that sometimes, it is precisely because that He loves us that He gives us the gift of pain.
To ward off something worse. To ensure that we are in a stance where He can give us something better.