13. SUFFICIENT GRACE
"How precious also are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"
"My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9
The apostle's 'thoughts' were desponding ones, when his God whispered in his ear this precious thought of comfort. A thorn in the flesh—a messenger from Satan—had been sent to buffet him. We know not specially what this thorn may have been. It is purposely left indeterminate, that each may make an individual application to his own case and circumstances.
But who, in their diversified and chequered experience, has not to tell of some similar trial?—some dead fly in life's otherwise fragrant ointment—some sorrow which casts a softened shadow over perhaps an otherwise sunny path? Infirm health, worldly loss, domestic anxiety, family bereavement, the discharge of arduous and painful duty, the treachery of tried and trusted friends, the sting of wounded pride or disappointed ambition, the fierce struggle with inward corruption and unmortified sin, the scorpion-dart of a violated and accusing conscience; the world all the time, perhaps little knowing or dreaming of the inward conflict, the life-long trial, the fountain of tears, though "a fountain sealed."
As the apostle earnestly entreated that his thorn might be taken away, so may you, reader, also have prayed fervently and long, that your trial might be averted, your sorrow mitigated, if not removed; and you doubtless imagine that it would be far better, were this messenger of Satan, this spirit of evil exorcized and cast out. But here again, God's thoughts are often not our thoughts. What was the answer to the apostle's earnest petition when "three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away." It was not granting the removal of the trial—but it was better. It was the promise of grace to bear it. "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you." It was enough; he asked no more. He may have demurred at first to the strange answer—so unlike what he expected, so unlike what he wished. But he was led before long, not only joyfully to acquiesce, but heartily to own and acknowledge the higher and better wisdom of the Divine procedure—"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
This, too, may be God's dealings with you. Often and again, it may be, have you taken your hidden sorrow—the burdening secret of your heart—laid it on the mercy-seat, and with importunate tears implored that it might be taken away. Yet the sorrow still remains! But, nevertheless, remember, the prayer is not unanswered. It has been answered—not perhaps according to your thoughts or desires, but according to the better thoughts and purposes of your heavenly Father.
The thorn is still left to pierce and lacerate; but strength has been given to bear it. The trial, be what it may, has taught you, as it did Paul, the lesson of your own weakness and your dependence on Divine aid. It has been a needful drag on your chariot wheels—a needful clipping of your wings—lest, like the great apostle, "you should be exalted above measure." Who can complain of the heaviest of sorrows if they have thus been the means alike of discovering to us our own weakness, and of endearing to us the all-sufficient grace of a Savior God?
Blessed, comforting assurance—"in all time of our need," that God will deal out the requisite grace. Seated by us like a physician, with His hand on our pulse, He will watch our weakness, and accommodate the supply to our several needs and circumstances. He will not allow the thorn to pierce too far—He will not allow the temptation to go beyond what we are able to endure. "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation." "As your day is so shall your strength be."
Grace "sufficient" will be given—sufficient for every emergency. His arms are ever lower than our troubles. I will go forth bearing my cross, fortified with the assurance, and breathing the prayer, "Your God has commanded your strength. Strengthen O God, that which you have wrought for us."
Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with My victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10