Paul writes: ‘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 12:8–10 NLT) Paul didn’t get the answer he was looking for until he quit praying and started listening. Sometimes we’re so busy telling God what He ought to do for us, that we can’t hear God telling us what He wants to do in us.
If you have a stubborn problem in your life, maybe it’s time to stop talking and start listening. God taught Paul lessons at the best time he could learn them—during difficulties. So the bad news about tough times turns out to be the good news after all—that you learn more about God in the valley than you do on the mountaintop. CS Lewis describes how God uses pain to communicate with us: ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pains.’
Before God spoke, all Paul wanted was to remove his problem. After God spoke, he realised that in his problem he had found something better and greater—supernatural strength reserved for those tough times when we realise God’s presence is greater than our problems and His purpose is greater than our pain.