Straddling Earth and Heaven (2)

This is a continuation of what I wrote yesterday regarding Paul’s thorn from 2 Corinthians 12…

It is as if as Christians we live life with one foot in heaven and yet one foot unable to escape the earth.

Like Paul, we have prayed urgently and fervently that these things – these reminders of our own frailty and humanity will be taken away and yet the answer comes back the same: “No, I will not take it away.”  Why is that?  Why does God not take those things away?  Why are we given assurances of our citizenship in heaven and yet forced to live in the midst of our own humanity?

Paul articulates the answer to that question when he tells us about the word that came back from the Lord: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  This is the way the Lord works.  He takes the foolish things and makes them wise.  He takes the dim things and makes them bright.  He takes the weak things and makes them strong.  But he does it in a way that leaves no room for doubt that he has done it.

Since Joshua’s diagnosis, nothing has impressed me more than the love and devotion of his mom.  She has sat with him through sleepless nights and boring days of just laying in bed.  She has been there to help him eat, sleep, play and bring him whatever he needs.  In his helplessness, she has risen to the challenge.  Who receives glory in that situation?  Who receives the praise?  Is it Joshua in his weakness, or is it the one who takes care of his needs?  The same is true spiritually.

The thorn remains so that there is no doubt where the power comes from.  Paul says this himself earlier in the book in 2 Corinthians 4:7: “Behold, we have this treasure in jars of clay so that the world will know that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

It is in our weakness that God is magnified.  It is when the world looks at the feeble, frail, sick, hurting men and women of the church and see that they have grace in the midst of their circumstances that they realize that there is something more than humanity at work here.

In fact, for Paul and for us, it is precisely these elements that mark us as followers of Christ.  Paul himself could not stand up against the false teachers in Corinth that had led the people astray.  They talked better.  They looked better.  They even had letters of recommendation.  What did Paul have?  He had weakness and hardship and insults and persecutions, but he rejoiced in those things because they identified him as an authentic follower of someone who also knows insults and persecutions and difficulties.

But it’s easier said than done.  Where can the power come from to rejoice in our weakness?  Surely it can only come from the one who knows better than we do what it is like to have one foot in heaven and one foot on earth.  It can only come from one who knows both the glory and the pain.  It can only come from one who knows the fullness of God and the fullness of man.  It can only come from one who was raised up on two crossbeams to where he was physically positioned not quite in the air and yet not quite on the earth either.  For when we look into the face of our Jesus, we rejoice, too, even in our thorns, because when we are weak, we are strong.

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4 Comments

  • Jana Kelley says:

    Thanks for helping me feel a little stronger in weaknesses today.

  • Amy Wright says:

    This helps me make sense out of what God has been doing in my life the last few years. Sometimes I look at that thorn and think, “There is no way this is helping me! I even look weak!” Of course!

  • Ashley says:

    I appreciate your insight so much. I have been readying your blog for a while, and it is always a blessing, but this post particularly speaks to some of my faith questions of late. This spoke to me in a loud way:

    “It is in our weakness that God is magnified. It is when the world looks at the feeble, frail, sick, hurting men and women of the church and see that they have grace in the midst of their circumstances that they realize that there is something more than humanity at work here.”

    Many thanks.

  • Michael K. says:

    Thanks for reading Ashley. I was glad and sad to read about your story after your comment. Glad this post was meaningful to you.

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