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The Apostle Paul faced some serious challenges in his ministry to the Saints in Corinth which are reflected in his second letter to the saints of that city. Some of the saints were being negatively influenced by charismatic individuals who were attempting to undermine the influence of Paul’s teachings and authority. Some even disparaged his physical limitations, saying what Paul wrote could be “weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Corinthians 10:10).
Forced to address this problem, Paul reaffirmed his apostolic authority and testimony of Jesus Christ. Uncomfortable with boasting about his qualifications, but finding it necessary to correct misrepresentation, he reluctantly recounted some of his many faithful labors and afflictions during his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:21–27). He also spoke briefly of a vision where he was caught up to the third heaven and heard sacred things that he was not permitted to share (2 Corinthians 12:2–4).
Paul admitted that he had many weaknesses. He spoke of one unnamed challenge which he described as a painful “thorn in the flesh” that the Lord allowed him to suffer in order to keep him humble.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7–10)
One of the great miracles of the Gospel is that the Lord makes use of weak instruments to do His work and extend His blessings of love and power to His children. If our Heavenly Father only used the strong, some might attribute these blessings to man. Because the Lord works through the weak, we can more easily see that it is only through His power and strength that we can be redeemed and perfected. Through this process, the Lord can also teach, sanctify, and perfect those who are willing to remain humble and teachable.
Moroni once felt his own abilities were inadequate to do what he had been called to do and even feared that some would mock him because of his weaknesses in writing (Ether 12:23–25). The Lord taught him, “If men come unto me I will show them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
We come to the Savior as weak vessels. When we are humble the Lord helps us see where we are lacking and need to improve. This should never discourage us, but should give us hope. God doesn’t expect us to become perfect at once, but he does expect us to exercise our faith by working on those things where we are weak and striving to do a little better each day. If we lack knowledge, we should strive to learn more. If we have temper, we should strive to control our anger. If we are easily offended, we should strive to cultivate greater patience and exercise the principle of forgiveness.
Our weaknesses become strengths as we humble ourselves before God and ask Him to help us and show us how to do better. We show our trust in God when we accept new callings and serve in ways that extend beyond our comfort zone. As we see how He blesses us, we gain confidence that with His continued help and our diligent efforts we can overcome our fears and grow in faith, hope, and love.