There are few things that we Americans despise like pain. We run from pain and even spend a fair amount of time attempting to prevent pain. Against that backdrop we find an intriguing message from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. He says that he has pain, in fact he clarifies that it is significant enough pain that he pleaded with the Lord on 3 separate occasions to take the pain from him and the Lord declined to do so. Instead, Paul said that he recognized the pain was a gift from the Lord to shape him to be like Jesus. In fact Paul goes so far as to say that he would “boast…gladly” about his weakness. What would compel him to approach pain, of all things, in such a strange manner? Why would Paul act as if he valued his pain?
I’m afraid that too many have acted as if Paul was some sort of spiritual masochist who enjoyed pain for “the cause”, if you will. I don’t see that at all in the passage. Instead I see a man who obviously didn’t want the pain, who pleaded with the Lord to take it from him, but a man who even moreso wanted to know and be like his precious Savior, Jesus.
Boasting gladly, in Paul’s case, was not then some sadistic enjoyment of pain, but was instead a rejoicing at knowing Christ, treasuring Christ and becoming like Christ because of his pain. Paul didn’t like pain, but he wanted Christ even more than he disliked his pain. If pain was the cost of knowing and glorifying Christ he was more than “content” to accept the pain in his life and even value it because of the purpose it served.