There is a dog that has been barking outside my office window all afternoon. And it’s not some big cool dog it’s one of those little yappy dogs. YAP. YAP YAP YAP. I don’t know if it’s barking at something, trying to get someone’s attention, playing with another dog, or just wants someone to call him a good boy. No matter the reason, today it is distracting and annoying. I have work to do, and while I can usually tune out as white noise like this, if I do notice it becomes all consuming. Today I noticed it.
For many of us there is a barking dog that we carry around. It is a thought or feeling that mostly stays in the fringes; we know that it is there, but it usually doesn’t pull us from our daily activity. However, from time to time, it rears its head to take all of our attention. Paul describes his as a thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul has just finished talking about how the only thing he wants to boast about is the great work that God is doing. He has the history and credibility to be well-respected by the Hebrew people and most Roman citizens. However, to Paul the only thing that matters is spreading the good news of the Gospel and using his life to point others to God.
We are never explicitly told what Paul’s personal affliction was, and I think that is a good thing. Once we see that someone else’s issue is X the temptation is to devalue their experience. We all know someone who had a similar issue, but theirs was way worse. Paul should just stop whining think about this group that are even sadder. Whatever this thorn may have been—depression, physical pain, money issues, the loss of a loved one, etc.—Paul used it as a tool rather than an excuse.
Most of us, like Paul, carry a thorn, some may even have two or three. Whatever our weakness or affliction may be I hope that it always reminds us that we can’t do this alone. Even in times when we want to tell God to just take it all away He tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12) It’s not what we want to hear, but usually it is what we desperately need. And Paul responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” We may never learn to love that barking dog, but in moments clarity we may be able to see its purpose
Jesus loves me this I know / For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong / We are weak, but He is strong.