Its commonly accepted that teenagers are supposed to be know-it-alls and foolish, but I find its a bit different when you meet someone who is now well into their 20s and still thinks they know it all and are still foolish. The one is easy to live with, the other, not so much. I’ve found myself thinking, they need life to knock them around a little. Problem being, I’m pretty sure I was one of those people! By my mid 20s, life had already knocked me around a little, but my dutch stubbornness was showing. I was very black and white, had little compassion, and was far too focused on the here and now. As I started to learn a few lessons from pain, and to be truly thankful for its role in my life, II Corinthians 12 jumped out at me.
Throughout his writing Paul often lists his accomplishments juxtaposed by his faults and his belief that he was the chief of sinners. But in this chapter, he gets real about a hardship in his life, his “thorn in the flesh”. He’s honest in saying that he wishes he didn’t have it, had asked God to take it away, but he sees the benefits in his life. The first benefit is listed in verse 6.
“For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.”
Paul saw this thorn in the flesh, this pain of some sort in his life, as a deterrent to becoming a fool. It kept him from being a know-it-all who thought very highly of himself.
There are many types of fools in the Bible, but the lesson that I learned from pain was to not be a fool that only focuses on the temporal instead of the eternal. Like the foolish virgins in Matthew 25 who were not prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom, the rich man in Luke 12 was a fool because he was only focused on the present and temporal.
“And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
There is something about pain that makes you long for Heaven. I honestly forget what its like to live without being in pain every day, but I can sure dream about Heaven! Of course there are many more important and spiritual things to look forward to, but that’s definitely close to the top of the list for me! Its so easy to forget that we are strangers and pilgrims here. So easy to be constantly worried about the temporal instead of building treasures in Heaven. Its so hard to keep our hearts focused on what really matters and sometimes we need a little nudge to remind us what life is really about, why we’re really here, and that this is not our home.
I love these verses in Hebrews 11, the great “faith chapter”.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly”
They didn’t just believe in the promise of Heaven, they were persuaded, embraced it, confessed it, and were mindful of it. If only every day, I could be persuaded to embrace the eternal. Pain has taught me to desire a better country, and for that, I am grateful.