2 Corinthians 12:7-10

For the past year or so, I’ve struggled with something.

God sometimes seems cruel and sadistic.

Okay, so maybe that statement is a little harsh. And probably more than a few readers who stumble across this blog will condemn me as a blasphemer for it. (Good thing they’re not in control of my salvation.)

The first time I was really hit by God’s less than rosy character was probably last year when I read Judges straight through for a Bible study for students that I was participating in. Seeing God as intolerant as He was went against almost everything contained in the construct I have of him. God is supposed to be love, but I couldn’t see the love in the accounts of the massacres of people.

I have yet to come to terms with that.

Today, in my morning devotions*, I was hit by a verse that is supposed to bring comfort. But I found myself reading it in a way that brought anything but.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

If I’m understanding this correctly, God demonstrates his power in our lives when we suffer. In fact, God refused to remove Paul’s “thorn in his flesh” so that Paul can be strong through Christ’s power. God achieved an (incredible) advancement of His kingdom through, according to this passage anyway, Paul’s suffering.

What? Cruel and heartless much? Where’s the loving God we’re taught about in Sunday school here?

Perhaps I’m focusing on the wrong portion of this passage. Perhaps it’s not meant to be about suffering at all. Paul also says “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Perhaps it’s less about God using our weakness and more about us using his strength.

It’s worth thought. It can’t be that simple. The Bible (and God) rarely is.

And I still can’t figure out Judges.

[* Just before the new year, I started the devotional given to me by my church when I did my profession of faith. I’m in mid-February. Yes, it’s June. I’m amazed that I’m doing devotions at all.]


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