3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:3–4, NKJV)
The sisters of Lazarus, the beloved friend of Jesus, sent Him word that their brother was seriously ill (Jno. 11:1-2). John’s narrative goes on to tell of Lazarus’ death, and that Jesus raised him from the dead (Jno. 11:17-44). Jesus knew the outcome of the sickness would not be death, it would be to the glory of the Father and the Son. Although Lazarus died physically, his resurrection affirmed Christ’s power over death (Jno. 11:25). Jesus also has power over the spiritual death caused by sin (“whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die,” Jno. 11:26). When sickness comes to us or to our loved ones, may we have the faith to see and use the opportunity it gives us to trust in God and to give Him glory. May we follow the example of Paul, whose physical ailment became an occasion for him to more fully trust the grace and power of the Lord (2 Cor. 12:8-10). Physical death awaits us all (Heb. 9:27). But, by living and believing in Christ we have spiritual life now, and eternal life beyond the grave (Jno. 5:28-29).
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7–9, NKJV)
We miss the point of this passage if we conclude God sent an ailment upon Paul to restrain his arrogance (John 9:1-3). His physical limitation was an opportunity for the grace of God to be magnified. Paul admitted he had been arrogant before his conversion, but also that he had been humbled by the mercy of God he received in Christ (1 Timothy 1:13-17). His thorn in the flesh was an occasion for the power of Christ to be glorified in him. And so, Paul trusted the Lord instead of his wisdom, strength, and accomplishments (Philippians 3:1-11). Most of us will face ailments and illnesses at some point in life. These are chronic for some and short-lived for others. But every one of them is our opportunity to learn to live with our limitations and to be strengthened in the Lord. His grace is sufficient for us to endure life’s temporary trials so we may live eternally with Him (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).