How Not to Feel Guilty About Your Weaknesses

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If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,  even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:6-10, New Living Translation).

Whatever the nature of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” one thing is evident: he didn’t blame himself for not being able to get rid of it. Perhaps you can’t say the same thing in regard to your own obsessive habit, troublesome emotions, or chronic illness. Many Christians are troubled by “thorns” being ground in ever deeper by the accusations of others or accusations from our own minds:

  • “You should have learned better by now.”
  • “You aren’t trying hard enough.”
  • “You must have done something to deserve it.”
  • “You didn’t pray enough.”
  • “You just need to have more faith.”
  • “You aren’t really sick, you’re just looking for excuses” (a frequent “second thorn” for Christians who struggle with mental illness).

Many of these accusations are due to assumptions that there’s one all-purpose explanation for every problem (the mistake Job’s friends made when they fixated on the idea that suffering was always God’s judgment for sin). Some such thoughts come from the devil, who isn’t called “the accuser” for nothing. He knows that if he can get us focused on feeling guilty or hopeless, or on searching for answers in the wrong places, our effectiveness as Christians will be seriously hampered.

In Paul’s case, the “messenger from Satan” had the opposite effect and resulted in Paul’s becoming even more effective for Christ. It can be the same for us, if we follow Paul’s example:

First, he asked God for help. He didn’t give up in despair after one request, either; he prayed “three different times” until he got a clear answer.

Second, he accepted God’s answer as the best one, even though it wasn’t the one he’d hoped for. Rather than fall into the trap of continuing to beg God to change His mind (or to be so busy begging for what he wanted that he didn’t even hear God’s answer), he had faith God was wiser than he and would work things out for good.

Finally, he looked for ways to bring good out of a painful situation. He learned to use his weakness as a reminder to seek God’s plans instead of making his own. And he learned to appreciate how his problems ultimately helped him serve God’s purposes better than he could have by relying on his own strength.

If you have a “thorn in the flesh,” don’t waste energy feeling guilty about it. Ask God what, if anything, He wants you to do about it. Then ask Him to show you how He can use it to fulfill His higher purposes.

COMING SOON! My new e-book, 100 Ways to Live as an Optimist in a Pessimistic World, will release in April. Get on the mailing list now (send your request to info@positivecontentfactory.com): you could win prizes for spreading the news!

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2 Comments

  1. Jo Swank

     /  January 19, 2019

    All good wisdom!!

    Reply

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  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at www.PositiveContentFactory.com.

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See http://www.biblegateway.com/ for copyright details.
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