The letters of Saint Paul give us timeless pearls of wisdom. This past Sunday’s reading from his second letter to the Corinthians (12:7-10) illustrates that he, too, was subject to trials and temptations. Yet even in weakness, he chooses to boast of his weakness to praise God.
I know Jesus is with me always, even when it seems like He is not close. Yet there is something about trials and temptations that make one feel completely alone. When you’re in the midst of that moment, it’s hard to feel like praising God. Rather you feel like you want to wave your arms over your head and shout up at the sky, “Hello, I’m down here! Remember me?! Can you help me out?” But what if we did praise God in that moment? What would it look like?
Would we thank God for the opportunity to be tried or tempted? Would we thank Him for not answering our prayers the way we want? Would we rejoice that we are found worthy of the difficulty? In our modern era, suffering and tribulation are seen as experiences to be avoided; rejoicing when in such circumstances sounds absurd. Yet if we ponder on the words of Jesus to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9),” what other reaction could we possibly have? To act miserably would be to refuse the grace God is giving us.
Perhaps my favorite of all Paul’s writings is in Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again. Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4) He does not ask us to just be happy, but to Rejoice!, and he repeats it for emphasis. He then goes on to say, “Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.” (Phil 4:6) To me, that sounds a lot like being thankful in our times of tribulations.
So the next time we want to look towards heaven to say, “Really? Did You need to give me this?,” we need to check ourselves and say, “Thank you Jesus! You’ve given this to me and I know you will see me through it!” It may be a little challenging at first, and initially the enthusiasm may be a bit lacking, but if we persevere, we may be surprised at the outcome.