These Earthly Thorns2 Corinthians 12:1-10Theme: Common Suffering.This week’s lessons teach us that God’s grace is all we need to get through life’s hardships. LessonThe subject of suffering requires a great deal of wisdom and insight. There is no easy answer for suffering in the Christian life. And above all, there are no easy answers when you are dealing with the someone else’s suffering.
The disciples thought they could give an easy answer. They argued that if people suffer it must be because of sin. Sin produces suffering. So, if they are suffering, they must have sinned. Sometimes that is the case, but not always.
Some suffering just comes from the common ailments of life. If a child falls down and scrapes his knee, it is not because he was bad necessarily, though he may have been running away from his mother when he fell down. But sin is not always the cause. That these things happen is just part of life.
Some suffering is corrective. When we are not walking with God as we should be, God brings things into our lives to draw us up short. Something happens to cause us to stop, look to God, and ask, “Am I doing the wrong thing here? Is something out of line?” God will let us know. And if there is sin in a case like that, there is opportunity for confession, and forgiveness, and cleansing.
But sin is not always the reason. Some suffering is given to develop character. If life is easy you do not develop character, just like you do not develop muscles without working out. Some suffering comes into our lives in order that we might learn to do the right thing in difficult situations and handle conflict.
Some suffering is for the glory of God, and no other reason. That was the case with the man born blind in the Gospel of John. When the disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:2-3). In other words, that man was born blind so that when Jesus came by on that particular day he might heal him and bring glory to his own name. God glorifies himself in that suffering.
There is yet another explanation for why we suffer. When Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh, he explained that this difficult, embarrassing, debilitating thing had been given to him lest he be carried away with the surpassing excellence of the visions that were given to him as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul, the great apostle, was acknowledging that apart from the thorn in the flesh, he would have become conceited. Though he was a great apostle, and though he endured far greater things for the cause of Christ than any of us are ever going to endure, he was nevertheless a man. He was human as we are. He would suffer the same frailties. Just as we are, Paul was capable of pride, of being carried away with the sense of his own importance. So he acknowledges that God brought the thorn into his life to humble him.
The conclusion of this section is in verse 9. Paul asked God to take the thorn away, but Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That is also true of us, whether we recognize it or not. We often say that we are glad to have the grace of God. But we want relief, too. We think relief is something we have to have, and that if we do not get it, we cannot manage. We believe we have to be free of the sickness, we have to achieve in this work, we have to get married, or whatever it may be.
What you need to learn is that it is not true. We do not have to do anything. The grace of God is sufficient for us even if we live all of our lives single and lonely. Even if you fail, Christ is saying that his grace is sufficient for you and his power is with you. His power is made perfect in your weakness.
Do you want to be strong? Let us be strong if we can–in the right sense. But if God makes us weak – and we are all very weak–let us accept it in order that in our weakness, his power might be seen, and glory might be given to him for Christ’s sake.
Study Questions

What are some of the reasons God allows suffering?
What is the truth about many of the things we think we need?

Scripture MemoryMemorize 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Study Questions
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