So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7, ESV).

God allows bad things to happen to good people. The phrase “good people” is a bit of an oxymoron or a contradiction, really, because none of us is good (Psalm 53:3). But bad things happen to decent people out of the blue, unprovoked, and undeserved. It makes sense that the dark cloud might settle over the head of an evil person, but why does it storm on the righteous?

God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to good people, but He doesn’t prevent them either. The world is free, and God rarely steps in to alter how the effects of sin visit themselves upon the creation. So God lets trials happen to Christians, just as He lets them happen to pagans, so that the superiority of the life lived in God can be demonstrated. The majority of the world is choosing not to worship God, but a few of us, by God’s grace, can draw down upon God’s promised resources to get us through.

God did not cause the horrible events in your life, but you need to embrace the fact that He allowed them. God could not make a world in which we are free and at the same time guarantee that everyone would choose Him. So the world is broken, and bad things happen. But God promises that He will be with those who love Him. He gives us His presence: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4a).

God allowed Paul to suffer some kind of intense pain. As Paul described, “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul understood that God allowed this pain in his life for a reason. Why would God permit a demon to “harass” (ESV) or “buffet” (NKJV) Paul? To buffet means to strike with a fist or to beat. This sounds like constant harassment. Twice in this single verse Paul stated God’s purpose: to keep him from becoming conceited.

God is always, absolutely sovereign. He is so much in control that even when Satan tries to ruin us, God takes the weapon that Satan intends to destroy us and uses it for good in our lives. God’s message to suffering Christians is, in effect, “If you will lean on Me in the midst of difficult times, I will use even that painful thorn for your good.”

Written by James MacDonald

Walk in the Word

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  • Organized religions, including “revealed” religions, always blame the victim for suffering. It is the same both West and East.