|Suffering deflates self. At least, it’s supposed to. The apostle Paul inferred in this verse that affliction was given so his focus might be not on self but on the Savior. Paul said that when he was weak, God was strong. He added that his sufferings helped him to know God better. We would say the same.
So why do we squirm when we feel the thorn in our flesh? Why do we keep asking why? The clue is hidden in the questions we ask when we suffer: “Will I ever be happy again?” and “How is this fitting together for my good?” The questions themselves are technical and me-focused. Even when we hit upon good reasons why, those reasons can be centered around self:
“Suffering sure has helped me get my spiritual act together.”
“I see how this trial is improving my character and prayer life.”
“This tribulation has really strengthened my relationships.”
Notice all the me’s. God notices, too. The main point in suffering is to know God better. The subpoints are all the benefits. We must never distance God’s benefits in suffering from God.
Most of us grant that hard times in moderate doses can be a good tonic for the soul. Suffering is an important part of Christian living that we all should know more about. Just keep the heat down to a manageable level, we think. We come unglued, however, if suffering has us at the end of our rope. But that’s not a bad place to be. At that point we are forced to think about a greater suffering and turn to Christ on the cross. Don’t ponder “me” if you’re hurting today…ponder the Messiah.
Teach me through hard times about you, Lord. Not me but you.