If your child, spouse, or other family member has disabilities, then his or her suffering and your daily weakness become a platform for the display of greater grace. If you are the one with a disability, then God’s grace is sufficient for you, too. From God’s perspective, the only limitations that exist are the ones we create. This is why the apostle could so boldly proclaim: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (12:9–10).
What were God’s reasons for bringing a thorn of suffering into Paul’s life? The apostle reveals three benefits that he experienced.
Suffering Prevents Conceit
First, God gave the apostle his affliction in order to cultivate an increase in humility: “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me.” The revelations Paul received were so great that the uniqueness of his experience was sure to produce an arrogance that would hinder his usefulness. To keep him from raising himself up, God introduced an instrument for the production of humility. Why would God do this? Because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). God takes no pleasure in opposing his servants, but he will do so if it is necessary.
Physical disability was given to the apostle to prevent pride from taking a deeper hold of his heart, resulting in a more limited usefulness to God. God had prepared a large, broad ministry for Paul, and his thorn in the flesh was given to prepare him to glorify God in that ministry.